by Matt Wilkes

Offense turns in a dud as Reds lose third straight to Tigers

For all the talk about the Reds’ easy schedule coming into 2020, they certainly haven’t taken advantage of it. The offense mustered only four baserunners on Friday night, as Cincinnati (2-5) fell in uninspired fashion to Detroit, 7-2.

Luis Castillo didn’t have his best stuff on Friday evening. Facing the Tigers for the second time in under a week, he allowed five runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out six.

It wasn’t the likes of Miguel Cabrera and C.J. Cron who hit Castillo hard — it was the unheralded bottom of the Detroit lineup. The top six hitters in the Tigers order combined for only two singles. The bottom three of Christin Stewart, Austin Romine, and JaCoby Jones went 6-for-7 with three doubles and a walk, accounting for all of the runs scored against Castillo.

Castillo’s command wasn’t great tonight and he gave up his fair share of hard contact, allowing eight batted balls of 100+ mph (five by the bottom three hitters) and an average exit velocity of 91.8 mph. But he also had some bad luck in the seventh inning, allowing singles of 69.2 mph and 74.9 mph, to lead off the inning as he was ultimately chased from the game with a 4-2 deficit.

Nate Jones was put in a tough position with runners on the corners and no outs. After back-to-back strikeouts, he was on the verge of escaping without any more damage, getting ahead of Jonathan Schoop 1-2 before bouncing a slider in the dirt that allowed a run to score. The run was charged to Castillo.

Despite the ugly stat line, Castillo still racked up 22 swings and misses, including 12 on his changeup and eight on his four-seam fastball. He nearly touched 100 mph with his fastball on multiple occasions, topping out at 99.5 mph. Through two starts, Castillo’s fastball velocity is up by about 1 mph (the caveat being that Statcast switched to the Hawk-Eye system this year, making it unclear whether the velocity increase is due to the system change).

Over the last week, I’ve highlighted Castillo’s slider and how it looked in his first start. He threw it just 10 times tonight, but it was effective when he unleashed it. The breaking ball registered a whiff against a left-handed hitter — great to see considering he’s been hesitant to use it against lefties — and was hit weakly for a groundout by Cabrera (79.0 mph) and a popout by Cron (88.7).

Raisel Iglesias pitched the eighth inning and — in what was a sign of things to come as he gave up two runs — gave up a 110-mph double to Cron on the first pitch. It wasn’t all on Iglesias, however. He struck out two batters and had a 75% whiff rate on his slider. But he was hurt by a Joey Votto error on a routine grounder and gave up a two-run double on a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone.

It was insurance the Tigers ultimately did not need. After breaking out for 12 runs on Wednesday, the Reds’ bats went back to sleep. The Cincinnati offense mustered only two runs on three hits and a walk. Only five batters registered a hard-hit ball (95+ mph exit velocity).

Once again, the Reds had few answers for Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull, with the only runs coming in the fifth. Nick Castellanos led off with a double and was driven in by another double by Nick Senzel. Tucker Barnhart brought Senzel home with a bloop single to left field, which gave the Reds a 2-1 lead at the time.

The Barnhart single, however, represented the Reds’ last baserunner of the game. Turnbull and the Detroit bullpen retired the final 13 Reds hitters they faced. Over the final three innings, nine Reds batters saw just 31 pitches against the Tigers relievers. Only two hitters saw more than five pitches in a plate appearance over that span, and four saw two or fewer pitches. That’s not going to get it done.

Most Valuable Players

  • Nick Senzel: .082 WPA (Win Probability Added)
  • Tucker Barnhart: .082 WPA

Play of the Game

  • Nick Senzel: .129 WPA | RBI double in 5th inning

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Shogo Akiyama: 101.8 mph flyout in 8th inning
  • Nick Castellanos: 101.7 mph double in 5th inning
  • Nick Castellanos: 100.6 mph lineout in 2nd inning

Highest Velocities By Pitcher

  • Luis Castillo: 99.5 mph
  • Raisel Iglesias: 97.6 mph
  • Nate Jones: 96.8 mph

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Nick Senzel: 70% hit probability | Lineout in 7th inning

What’s Next?

Saturday will feature another intriguing pitching matchup for game two of the series. Due to expected rain on Saturday evening in Detroit, the game has been moved up from 6:10 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. EST. Trevor Bauer will take the mound for the Reds, facing off against another former top prospect in Michael Fulmer.

Bauer, of course, is coming off his best start as a member of the Reds. Last Sunday, the right-hander struck out 13 batters and allowed one run on two hits in 6.1 innings. Fulmer had Tommy John surgery in March 2019 and missed all of last season. The Tigers are easing him back into game action, keeping him on a pitch count in the early going of 2020. His first start back wasn’t pretty; he allowed four runs on five hits, including three home runs, in only 2.2 innings. Notably, his fastball was down by about 2 mph from his pre-surgery velocity. The Reds seemingly have the advantage on paper, but they’ll need the offense to come back to life.

[Photo: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/1140806480884621313/photo/1]

Matt Wilkes got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Columbus. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.

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