Photo Credit: Minda Haas Kuhlmann (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hunter_Greene_(51253493007)_(cropped).jpg)
We were this close (presses pointer finger and thumb together with an imperceptible amount of space between). Hunter Greene, the Cincinnati Reds’ gifted 22-year-old starting pitcher, nearly accomplished one of the most spectacular feats in all of Reds’ history on Sunday when he almost completed a no-hitter versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds did complete the no-hitter, mind you, but they ended up losing the game, as only the 2022 Reds could.
Sunday’s result, while disappointing, certainly, does not diminish what was an incredible effort by the young Reds right-hander. While he struggled a bit with his control, as his five walks attest to, he showcased his incredible potential, mowing down an overmatched Pirates lineup over and over again. By the time Greene was subbed out of the game for reliever Art Warren, he had struck out nine in seven and a third innings, all while never surrendering one hit.
Unfortunately for Greene, he had walked two Pirates in the eighth inning, so when Warren was subbed in and promptly walked the first batter he faced, the ballgame, tied at 0 - 0, looked like it was about to be blown wide open. Warren forced the next batter into a ground out, but second baseman Alejo Lopez hesitated on the throw and the Reds failed to convert the double play. The runner at third scored, but the no-hitter remained intact due to the play being scored a fielder's choice.
The Reds still had an opportunity to salvage the “no no” but failed to score in the top of the ninth, ending the game as a W for the Pirates. As we’ve seen multiple times throughout this season, even just a month in, the Reds are almost completely incapable of combining good hitting with good pitching. Sunday was a prime example.
On a day where Reds’ pitching did not allow a hit, Reds’ hitters could only manage four. Pirates’ starter Jose Quintana continued his excellent start to the 2022 season by going seven innings versus the Reds, striking out five while only allowing four baserunners. The Pirates relievers Chris Stratton and David Bednar kept up where Quintana left off, blanking the Reds for the final two frames to end the game.
Despite all of this, Sunday’s game was still cause for celebration. Hunter Greene is one of, if not the, most important players for the Reds moving forward. As nice as it's been to see the team be moderately competitive over the last two weeks, this Reds baseball team is not competing for anything anytime soon. Player development should be the focus now.
No player’s development is more critical than Greene’s. The Reds haven’t had a pitcher with his combination of velocity, control and stature since Aroldis Chapman, and the Reds made the crucial mistake of throwing him into the bullpen when they felt they couldn’t wait for him to develop into a starter anymore. This cannot happen with Greene. A starting pitcher who can go deep into games and generate lots of strikeouts is invaluable. A dominant closer is nice, but only on a competitive team. Greene must remain in the rotation, and the Reds must allow him to work his way through his struggles.
Sunday was a breakthrough for Greene. Before this game, Greene had not gone more than five and one third innings in any game this season, and his ERA was sitting at an ugly 7.62 after his first six starts. Lucky number seven, I guess.
Most encouragingly, Greene is stringing together consecutive solid appearances. In his last start before Sunday, Greene went five and a third innings, striking out six while only allowing two earned runs. While he does still need to cut down on the number of walks, he’s issuing and to attack the strike zone better with his first pitch, the improvement he’s shown is impressive.
As Sunday’s game reminded us, this Reds team is going nowhere in 2022. The front office knows it, the fans know it, it’s possible the players even know it (although for their sake, I hope they continue to believe - that would have to be a long season if you didn’t think you could compete). 2022 should be all about giving the next generation of impact Reds players their chance to take their lumps at the MLB-level, and prove that they can overcome and excel. Greene just showed Cincinnati, and all of baseball, that he was capable. Now, it’s time for the rest of the Reds’ youngsters to step up too.