After an exciting six-game winning streak, the Reds have come back down to earth a little bit with back-to-back series losses. Cincinnati lost two out of three games to the Arizona Diamondbacks before finishing their west coast road trip by losing two out of three to the San Francisco Giants. The bats have cooled off as the Redlegs have now been shutout in two of their last four contests.
Now, Cincy will take Thursday off as they travel back home to Great American Ball Park to prepare for the Ohio Cup. On Friday evening, the Cleveland Indians will come to town for a three game series beginning at 7:10 p.m. Eastern Time.
Losing a series is never fun, especially back-to-back series after a six game winning streak. However, the Reds are still above .500 at 7-5 and are tied with the Brewers for first place in the National League Central. Major League Baseball is a long, marathon of a season. The great thing is that you never have to wait long for your next opportunity to compete.
Game 1: Reds 3 Giants 0
The Reds got back in the win column on Monday night after losing two out of three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The long ball supplied the offense while the pitching staff turned in a dominant two-hit shutout performance to begin the series in San Francisco.
You can’t ask much more out of your fifth starter than to begin the season with two wins and 11 consecutive shutout innings. That is exactly what veteran left-hander Wade Miley has delivered for Cincinnati. Miley scattered just two hits across his five innings of work needing only 73 pitches to bridge the gap to long reliever Tejay Antone.
As usual, Miley pounded right-handers inside with his cutter and then went low and away with the changeup to keep them off balance. Those two pitches accounted for 56 of his 73 pitches and produced a 33% whiff rate. Hitters have only “barreled”–a measure of exit velocity and launch angle–one ball versus the left-hander this season.
Out of the bullpen, Tejay Antone came in and was absolutely phenomenal. Antone did not allow a hit in three and two-thirds innings while striking out five. Due to exiting the game when he hit the 60-pitch mark, despite only needing one more out to close the game, it appears that David Bell might be ramping Antone to start sometime in the near future.
Lucas Sims entered to record the final out of the game, via strikeout, to earn the first save of his career. His wife, who is a great Twitter follow, had predicted that the 26-year-old would record his first save while in San Francisco.
At the plate, Jesse Winker and Joey Votto supplied the run support with a pair of homers. Winker struck first after Tucker Barnhart drew a walk and connected on a 3-1 pitch that he sent over the centerfield fence. It was an absolute rocket with a 107.4 MPH exit velocity. The Reds left fielder has not missed a beat despite battling flu-like symptoms and a bout with cramps. Winker’s slash line after Monday’s game was an insane .500/.529/.813.
Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang pic.twitter.com/EOrUEwJWxJ
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 13, 2021
Joey Votto’s home run in the sixth inning landed in McCovey Cove to give the Redlegs the 3-0 lead that they would hold on to until the end. Votto, who has focused on hitting the ball harder this season, has now registered a 44% hard-hit rate including 10 batted balls with over a 100 MPH exit velocity through Monday’s game. Like a stroke of bad luck, only three of those missals off the bat have been hits. If the veteran first baseman and former MVP continues to hit the ball hard moving forward his .171 batting average should start to average out with his .318 expected batting average. Keep hitting the ball hard and good things will happen.
Game 2: Giants 7 Reds 6
The ball was flying out of the ballpark early on in San Francisco. There was a total of four home runs hit in the first inning, two by each team, before the starting pitchers settled in. Unfortunately for the Redlegs, they blew two leads plus a late tie on their way to a 7-6 defeat to tie the series.
One night after parking a home run into the Pacific Ocean, Joey Votto went to the opposite field in the top of the first inning for a two-run home run to put Cincinnati on the board. Mike Moustakas followed it up with a two-run shot of his own. Moose’s blast that traveled 411 feet before landing in McCovey Cove had an exit velocity of 106.6 MPH. It was absolutely crushed.
Mike Moustakas, the kinda new guy. pic.twitter.com/PqWRf0kJ9o
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 14, 2021
Despite taking a 4-0 lead before the home team even got a chance to bat, the Reds’ advantage would be short-lived. Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford paired up for two-run home runs off of Luis Castillo to immediately tie the game back up at four apiece.
In the second inning, the Reds would pull in front once again with a two-out double down the third baseline by Nick Castellanos. That would be the last lead of the game for Cincinnati.
After giving up the two home runs in the first, Luis Castillo settled in and made it through five innings while striking out seven without allowing a walk. The bullpen, however, would have no such luck with their control.
Evan Longoria hit a home run off of Sean Doolittle in the sixth and Austin Slater provided the go-ahead RBI with a triple. Cionel Perez and Cam Bedrosian each walked two batters in their relief appearances as well. Outside of Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims, it seems like the Reds bullpen is a complete toss-up once again.
A couple of additional notes of interest:
-Despite hitting home runs in back-to-back games, Joey Votto continued to have some bad luck on hard-hit balls. The 108.1 MPH exit velocity on his fifth-inning flyout was the second hardest-hit ball of the game by either team and had an expected batting average of .490.
-Luis Castillo’s velocity was on par with what you expect despite pitching in the cold in San Francisco. It was also encouraging for him to record a 41% whiff rate on his changeup. However, there were just too many fastballs and sinkers left directly over the middle of the plate. It is good that the velocity was there, but the location must improve for Castillo to pitch like a true ace.
-There isn’t a fancy statistic or graphic for this one, but Eugenio Suarez is already looking more comfortable at shortstop. In the last couple of games, he has made some really nice plays and has even showcased some range. Things aren’t going well at the plate for Suarez, but that isn’t as much of a long-term worry. If he can just approach league average with the glove at shortstop that will be a win for the Reds.
Game 3: Giants 3 Reds 0
For the second time in four games, the Reds were shut out. The San Francisco Giants combined to throw a four-hitter, led by former Red Johnny Cueto who pitched five and two-thirds innings to earn the win. Cueto had to leave the game after just 68 pitches due to a lat strain.
At the plate, Cincinnati just never could get anything going as they only placed three runners in scoring position all game long. The Reds struck out a mere six times, but also just coaxed one free pass which kept them from ever really threatening on the base paths.
Tyler Mahle turned in five solid innings on the mound striking out seven batters and allowing two runs on three hits. Austin Slater doubled to drive in the first run in the bottom of the fifth and eventually scored on former Red Curt Casali’s fielder’s choice. The Giants would tack on an extra run in the eighth inning when Jonathan India failed to make a basket catch in shallow right field.
The Reds finished their west coast road trip with a 2-4 record and will take tomorrow off before returning to Great American Ball Park. Losing two straight series is never fun, but the team is still in first place in the National League Central with a 7-5 record. In a 162-game season, there will be plenty of ups and downs.
Upcoming: Cleveland Indians
Cincinnati will return home after a day off on Thursday for a three-game weekend series against the in-state rival Cleveland Indians. At the time of this post, the Indians are 6-4 on the season with two more games left in their four-game set against the Chicago White Sox.
The Tribe once again has an excellent starting pitching rotation led by 2020 American League Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber. The Reds are catching them at a good time though as they will be able to avoid number two starter Zach Plesac and face the back end of the rotation on Friday and Saturday before Bieber takes the ball on Sunday.
Other exciting news for Reds fans is the return of Sonny Gray to the starting rotation this weekend. Gray began the season on the Injured List with a back strain that forced him to miss his first two starts. The Reds’ 2020 Opening Day starter will replace Jose De Leon in the rotation. Gray started 11 games last season posting a 5-3 record with a 3.70 ERA after sporting a 2.87 ERA and an 11-8 record in 31 starts in 2019, his first in Cincinnati.
Here is how the pitching matchups will shake out for the Ohio Cup:
-Friday: RHP Jeff Hoffman (1-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. LHP Logan Allen (1-1, 2.70 ERA)
-Saturday: RHP Sonny Gray (first start) vs. RHP Triston McKenzie (0-0, 4.70 ERA)
-Sunday: LHP Wade Miley (2-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Bieber 1-1, 2.11 ERA)