by Matt Wilkes

Reds drop fourth straight in game marred by missed opportunities

It’s getting tough to write ledes that aren’t repetitive.

Another lackluster offensive effort doomed the Reds in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers. Cincinnati managed only four hits on the day, all coming before the sixth inning.

Believe it or not, the Reds did lead the game at one point and ended a dubious streak in the process. For the first time in 45 innings, Cincinnati notched two hits in an inning to plate two runs. Nick Castellanos got the fourth started when he was hit by a pitch. The next two hitters began to reverse the Reds’ awful BABIP luck — which Steve Mancuso wrote about on Monday — by beating the shift. Eugenio Suarez poked a softly hit ground ball through the wide open hole on the right side of the infield, moving Castellanos to third. Suarez stole second with no throw before Mike Moustakas lined a ball through the shift for a two-run single.

After giving up three runs in the bottom of the fourth, the Reds were given a golden opportunity to retake the lead. Freddy Galvis (single), Mark Payton (double that nearly left the yard for his first career hit), and Tucker Barnhart (walk) all reached to load the bases with no outs. In 2019, that situation resulted in 2.4 runs on average. The Reds managed to score zero runs. Let’s relive the nightmare.

Joey Votto started things off with what should’ve been a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. However, the pitch — which was clearly inside — was called for strike three.

Votto struck out four times in the game, and it’s undoubtedly time to get him out of the leadoff spot. Things boiled over for Votto in the eighth inning, as he was ejected after taking a called strike three to complete the golden sombrero.

But no fear — Castellanos lined a base hit to right field! That’ll score at least one run, right? Not so fast, my friends.

Galvis was caught running back toward third base to tag up and was thrown out at home by the right fielder. A 9-2 fielder’s choice, and no hit for Castellanos. Jesse Winker popped out to end the inning.

The Reds bats — true to form — fell asleep after that. No hitter reached base after the fateful fifth inning. Moustakas and pinch-hitter Matt Davidson did have a pair of hard-hit balls in the ninth inning against Josh Hader. But Davidson’s 397-foot line drive was about three feet short of the wall and settled into the center fielder’s glove to end it.

On the mound, it was another so-so outing for Luis Castillo, at least by his lofty standards. He battled through six innings on a season high 113 pitches, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks. He struck out nine.

Early on, Castillo matched Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff pitch for pitch, displaying much better command than his last outing against the Royals. The right-hander used a fastball-heavy approach early in the outing and painted the corners beautifully, which set up his nearly unhittable changeup. Let’s focus on the four-seam fastball for just a minute. Across the league, pitchers have increasingly been using high fastballs. Castillo has jumped on that train in 2020.

Here are the heat maps for 2019 (left) and 2020 (right):

The result for Castillo: more swings and misses. Despite having a low-spin heater, he uses his velocity (97.4 mph on average) to beat hitters up in the zone. So far this season, he has a 35.6% whiff rate on the four-seamer in 2020. His previous career high was 27.8% in 2019.

But the bad luck that has plagued Castillo this season returned in the fourth inning. After the Reds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning, Castillo gave up an infield single to Christian Yelich that was close enough to draw a replay review. That was followed by a weak line drive single to Keston Hiura (74.7 mph exit velocity).

Next batter Justin Smoak grounded into what should’ve been a double play, but Votto’s throw hit the sliding Hiura in the back at second base, allowing Yelich to score. A double and another single later, and the Reds faced a 3-2 deficit just like that. The damage was mitigated, though, when Castellanos threw out a runner at home to end the inning.

Castillo worked in and out of trouble with three walks over his final two innings but kept the Brewers from extending their lead.

The bullpen continued a strong run by throwing two scoreless innings.

Amir Garrett pitched the seventh and was dominant, as he has been for much of the season. He struck out the first two batters before getting Yelich to ground out. All three of the swings on his slider were whiffs. Garrett has a ridiculous 71% whiff rate on the slider this season.

Tyler Thornburg tossed a perfect eighth inning.

The bullpen quietly has a 1.88 ERA and 3.98 xFIP since August 12.

Most Valuable Reds

  • Mark Payton: .125 Win Probability Added (WPA)
  • Mike Moustakas: .092 WPA
  • Amir Garrett: .046 WPA

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Matt Davidson: 102.7 mph | Lineout in 9th inning
  • Mike Moustakas: 101.9 mph | Single in 4th inning
  • Mike Moustakas: 101.7 mph | Groundout in 9th inning
  • Freddy Galvis: 101.4 mph | Single in 5th inning
  • Mark Payton: 99.6 mph | Double in 5th inning

Highest Velocities By Pitcher

  • Luis Castillo: 98.6 mph

Luckiest Hit of the Day

  • Eugenio Suarez: 32% hit probability | Single in 4th inning

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Nick Castellanos: 78% hit probability | Fielder’s choice in 5th inning

What’s Next?

The Reds will try to right the ship in game three of the four-game set against the Brewers on Wednesday. First pitch is again at 8:10 p.m. EST, and Cincinnati has a clear advantage in the pitching matchup.

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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2 months ago

I know we have half the season left but here is how I feel about our season.