The season began poorly for both the Kansas City Royals and the Cincinnati Reds, and then it got worse.
The story is the same in both cities. Not enough hitting. Not enough pitching. Certainly not enough bullpen. Veterans that didn't produce, prospects that didn't develop as expected.
Now, two franchises that enjoyed major success only a few years ago -- the Royals winning the World Series in 2015, the Reds winning 97 games in 2012 -- can't wait for this season to be over. And, especially, for this September to be over.
The Royals and Reds begin a two-game series that's about as meaningless as it gets Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.
The Royals (54-102) already are assured of losing 100 games and finishing last in the AL Central. The Reds (66-91) won't drop that many, but they've been all but doomed to a last-place finish in the NL Central since losing 15 of their first 18 games.
Royals left-hander Eric Skoglund (1-5), winless for nearly five months, opposes right-hander Matt Harvey (7-9), a pending free agent who could be making his last start for the Reds.
If either club was hoping to salvage a dreadful season with a strong September, it hasn't happened, even with the addition of prospects from the minors.
The Reds are 9-13 this month but, glaringly, they've lost eight of 11 as their offense has simply disappeared. They've been one of the majors' best-hitting clubs most of the season -- three of their four starting infielders were chosen for the All-Star Game -- but the Reds have been shut out in four of their last seven games and five of their last nine. And they scored only one run in another of those losses.
They finished off a 3-7 road trip in which they were limited to 12 runs by losing to the Miami Marlins 6-0 on Sunday, their third defeat in the four-game series.
This isn't the sign of a team that's playing to gain some momentum for the start of next season.
"It'll be good to get home," said Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman, who still doesn't know his fate for next season. "It's been a long trip. Hopefully we'll be a little energized when we get home and start swinging the bats a little better."
The Royals are a more respectable 11-11 in September, but they've dropped six of eight despite splitting a four-game weekend series in Detroit.
Skoglund will be facing the Reds for the first time. He hasn't won since April 28 against the Chicago White Sox, but he pitched three-hit ball over six scoreless innings in a 2-1 Royals loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 11 innings last Tuesday.
"I felt comfortable out there," Skoglund said. "I was able to make some pitches and just continue to help me build off that confidence-wise. I was able to get through that sixth inning pretty easily. I felt good."
He's already been told by Yost he'll get one more start next weekend.
"Every game I try to take something out of it," Skoglund said. "Try to work and learn and implement everything I can into every situation. I can use this (start) and continue to keep the ball rolling."
Harvey is one of the Reds' few pleasant surprises this season, going 7-7 after they acquired him from the New York Mets in early May.
He had a rough start his last time out, allowing seven runs on seven hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 7-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. But Harvey shut out the Chicago Cubs for six innings on Sept. 14, giving up four hits, although he didn't figure in the decision as the Cubs came back to win 3-2.
Harvey allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 4-3 loss at Kansas City for the Mets on April 3, 2016. He also faced the Royals in Game Five of the 2015 World Series when he lobbied to start the ninth with a 2-0 lead but couldn't finish it and the Royals won the title in the 12th.
The Reds swept a two-game series in Kansas City earlier in the season, winning 5-1 in 10 innings on June 10 and 7-0 on June 11. For the Royals, those losses came during a stretch in which they lost 15 of 16.