I usually dislike Daugherty's stuff very much, but he does make some good points in this one.

Relievers color way Narron is perceived
Nothing lowers a manager's perceived IQ more than a busted bullpen. Despite GM Wayne Krivsky's tireless tweaking, the Reds 'pen remains a propane truck looking for a wall. And Jerry Narron's perceived smarts are down there with potato salad.

Heading into the biggest series of the season, the Reds have a bad case of the same-ol', same-ol's. After taking three days off against Los Angeles, they were poised Sunday to sweep three from the Atlanta Braves. A thin line separates "resilient" from "inconsistent." Cincinnati crosses it, both ways, every other week.

The Reds were up 4-2 after seven innings Sunday. They got five gutsy innings from Kyle Lohse and yet another big hit from Edwin Encarnacion, who should be playing a whole lot more than he is. Then they walked the same, live wire they've walked all year.

Blame it on Narron, if you like. Observe, again, his use of the bullpen, and find him deficient. But understand this going in:

Narron doesn't pitch. The best he can do is judge which relievers are best in which roles, call their names and try not to close his eyes in prayer when they come in. For most of this season, Reds relievers have had the shelf life of a three-cheese omelet. Of the 12 pitchers on the Opening Day Roster, five are active today. Of the five, only two are relief pitchers.

The Reds have burned through the likes of Rick White, Mike Burns, Chris Hammond, Brian Shackelford and Esteban Yan. Narron is like the poker player trying to win the pot with a pair of 5s.

Managers get comfortable when they know what to expect. Narron started the season without a bona-fide closer. He has been juggling swords since. He did it again Sunday, and looked alternately smart and stupid, depending on who was pitching.

Narron brings in lefty Bill Bray with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth. Bray, an emerging stud, pops out Brian McCann and gets Jeff Francoeur to ground weakly to second. Narron: Genius.

In the seventh, Narron lifts Bray for Gary Majewski, who gets Edgar Renteria to ground out with the bases loaded. Narron: Genius.

In the eighth, Majewski gives up two singles, a triple, a home run and a sacrifice fly. Narron: Potato salad.

To those who wondered what Majewski was doing out there in the eighth, Narron said he didn't want to use Rheal Cormier or David Weathers, because each had worked extensively lately. Cormier had pitched in four of the previous five games; Weathers in three of the last four.

Majewski, bless him, looks beat up, either physically, mentally or both. Narron likely would have removed him after the Renteria at-bat, to give him something to dream about sweetly for a change, had he wanted to risk Cormier or Weathers.

"I hate to say they were unavailable," the manager said. "But we were doing everything we could to avoid them." Including blowing the game. Meanwhile, three Braves relievers held the Reds hitless in the last three innings.

The last genius manager here was Lou Piniella. His IQ jumped measurably whenever Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers warmed up. Smart managers have reliable bullpens. Genius managers have great bullpens. Managers with torch men in the bullpen go by a different name: Fired.

Maybe in the next two months, in the heat of a lukewarm pennant race, the Reds' bullpen will stop resembling a Manhattan subway stop. Narron will develop a feel for who works best in different situations. If Bray keeps improving, Majewski turns it around (or takes a seat when Kent Mercker comes off the DL) and Narron gets consistently what Cormier, Weathers and Eddie Guardado have historically provided, Narron will find a groove with his bullpen. And his team will stop wasting games like the one it wasted Sunday.

Until then, St. Louis is in town. Narron better spend the next four days not pitching to Albert Pujols. Or he'll really be second-guessed.

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com