It's All Up to the Reds' Young Pitchers
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Sayonara, 11-game losing streak! The Reds, who were finishing up a three game homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, found a way to string together just enough offense in the afternoon to support rookie Nick Lodolo, who cruised his way through 5.2 innings to earn his first win of his short career. It feels like the baseball gods have given the Reds some reprieve from their tough start.
Lodolo was excellent, allowing just five hits, no walks and just one earned run while striking out seven Cardinals. It was Lodolo’s best start of the season, and arguably the best performance of any Reds’ starter all season and gives Reds fans hope that brighter days could be ahead.
Prior to Sunday’s outing, Lodolo had struggled in his first two professional starts, going 0-2, making it through just nine total innings, with a pitching line of 13 hits, walking five, sporting an ERA of 8.00. Even viewed through the rosiest-tinted glasses, that’s not good.
Yesterday saw Lodolo put everything together for the first time. He never struggled with his control, throwing 57 strikes out of a total of 79 pitches. Of the 22 batters he faced in the game, he threw first pitch strikes to 15 of them. This is in stark contrast to his first two starts of the season, where Lodolo seemed to struggle locating his pitches. Sunday’s start is encouraging. If Lodolo has worked out some of his early-season issues, it may be smooth sailing for the 24-year-old left-hander from here on out.
If the Reds are going to drag themselves out of the hole they dug with this 11-game losing streak, their young pitchers are going to have to be the ones to do it. Yesterday, they did. Moving forward, well…we’ll see.
Hunter Greene had his first rough outing versus the Cardinals back on April 22. Greene was only able to complete 3.1 innings, leaving the game in the fourth with the bases loaded. Reliever Jeff Hoffman was substituted in and promptly gave up a single to Cardinals’ 1B Paul Goldschmidt. Two runners scored, which were charged to Greene. For the day, Greene allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks, by far his worst performance of the season.
While his outing versus the Cardinals brought him back down to Earth somewhat, that doesn’t cancel out all the incredible and exciting moments Greene has delivered in his short MLB tenure. The rookie right-hander has routinely lit up scoreboards with 100+ MPH fastballs, setting velocity records and demonstrating the potential that made Sports Illustrated wonder whether he was “baseball’s LeBron James or the new Babe (Ruth).” For the season, the 22-year-old has gone 1-2 over 13.2 innings with a 5.27 ERA, 16 strikeouts and a 1.390 WHIP.
Greene and Lodolo alone make for an exciting tandem, but with 27-year-old Tyler Mahle and 29-year-old Luis Castillo, whenever he returns from injury, also in the starting rotation-mix, the long-term foundation has been laid. The bullpen, while also inconsistent this year, has also shown flashes of growth and potential.
In yesterday’s outing versus the Cardinals, the Reds saw three young relievers play a huge role in maintaining the 3-1 lead when Lodolo left the game in the sixth inning. With a runner on base and two outs, reliever Tony Santillan entered the game facing Albert Pujols. Santillan was able to get the legendary slugger to pop up in foul territory to end the threat. He followed that up by throwing a scoreless seventh inning, earning his second hold of the season
Sunday was a nice bounce-back outing for Santillan. He was coming off two-straight rough appearances against the Dodgers and Padres, combining to throw just 1.1 innings with three hits, two walks, and four earned runs allowed. It was back to form for the 25-year-old right-hander, who started the 2022 season off with three straight scoreless appearances.
Following Santillan out of the bullpen was 29-year-old reliever Art Warren. Warren signed with the Reds after being waived by the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, falling out of favor with both organizations as a starter and as a reliever. The former Cincinnati Bearcat struck out two in a scoreless eighth inning on Sunday, bringing his ERA down to 4.15 on the season. Warren has been solidly consistent for the Reds so far in 2022, with his only poor outing coming against the Los Angeles Dodgers back on the 17th.
Making his second appearance in relief this season was Lucas Sims, who earned the save Sunday. After being activated from the Injured List on Friday, Sims’ wasn’t guaranteed to appear in the series against the Cardinals. Before the game, however, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith, Sims walked into David Bell’s office and said, “We’re going to win a ballgame today. I want to be part of it.” And so he was.
Sims made quick work of the Cardinals, retiring the side on three consecutive groundouts. The 28-year-old was one of the Reds’ most consistent relievers last year. Yes, that’s not saying much given the Reds’ yearlong struggles in that department in 2021, but if Sims can carry over that form to 2022, the Reds’ bullpen could go from a weakness to a strength.
Unfortunately for the Reds, despite the 4-1 victory to end the losing-streak, the bats still seem asleep. They still aren’t getting much in the way of power or even consistently hard-hit balls from this lineup. If the Reds are going to climb their way out of baseball’s cellar, it’s going to be up to the Reds’ young arms in the rotation and bullpen to pick up the slack. If yesterday’s performance is any indication, they might be up for the task.