The Reds had a massive opportunity ahead of them starting this past Thursday night: seven straight games against the team above them in NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Reds were six games back coming into Milwaukee, and left with wins in three out of four games as they head into the All-Star break. They now sit four games back, with the three games following the break in GABP against these same Brewers.
Today’s win was another nail-biter, and this time a more likely hero, Nick Castellanos, delivered the game winning hit against all-world closer Josh Hader. There were some unsung heroes out of the bullpen, which held the Brewers to 1 run on the afternoon after an effective but short start by Luis Castillo. The Reds enter the all-star break at 48-42, with a record of 9-2 thus far in July. With a week off from playing games, attention will shift to ownership and the front office to give this team some reinforcements for a playoff push.
The Reds offense was presented with a tall task today, facing Brewers’ ace Brandon Woodruff. In a weird turn of fortune the Reds missed Woodruff the last 3 series against the Brewers (partially because they’ve used a 6 man rotation), so this will be the first time they faced the 2-time All Star this season.
Woodruff has a 5-pitch arsenal, and all of them are extremely effective. Woodruff is not afraid to go after hitters with his fastball and sinker , and rarely issues walks as a result (30.7 K%, 6.1 BB%). When batters do put the ball in play against Woodruff, they find below average exit velocities and hard hit rates. It all adds up to an 2.54 xERA and 198 ERA+, which is good for 3rd best in the National League. If the Reds are to find success against Woodruff, it’ll likely be catching up to the heat he is not afraid to challenge them with.
If there is one weakness for Woodruff though, it’s that he takes some time to settle in – specifically one inning. He has given up eight of his 25 earned runs in the 1st inning, and the Reds swung early like they were keenly aware of that fact.
After Jonathan India led off with a groundout, the heart of the Reds order all reached base. First was All-Star Jesse Winker staying with an outside pitch and taking it the other way for a single. Next was MVP candidate Nick Castellanos who scorched (111.0 mph exit velo) a double into the left-center gap, hit so hard off the wall that Yelich was able to corral it quickly and force Winker to stop at 3rd base. That double was Castellanos’s major league leading 29th of the season, one of many reason he will be the right field starter for the National League All Star team in a few days. Cleanup hitter Joey “Moppo” brought Winker home with a sharply lined (104.2 mph) single to center, and the Reds led 1-0.
Employee No. 19 clocking in❗️ pic.twitter.com/Jw0cAnTnh5
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 11, 2021
The inning ended with Tyler Stephenson bouncing into a 4-6-3 double play, and while the Reds were happy to jump on Woodruff early, they hoped they wouldn’t later regret coming away with only one run from the heart of the lineup’s hit parade.
Top 2nd the unlikeliest of Reds got singles against Woodruff, SS Mike Freeman and Luis Castillo- we love pitchers who rake. The first time through the lineup the Reds had 5 hits against Woodruff, a very rare feat. Still, they led only 1-0 and left 2 runners on in both frames as India struck out to end the half inning.
— ɴɪᴄᴋ ᴋɪʀʙy (@Nicholaspkirby) July 11, 2021
Woodruff looked more like the ace the Reds expected to see, mixing in his curveball which opposing hitters hit .098 against. Winker, Castellanos, and Joey Votto were all unable to reach base this time around in the 3rd inning.
Top 4, Tyler Stephenson was the latest Reds player to get on base, shooting a line drive to right on a sinker up in the zone. Freeman reached again on an infield single to 2B, but this time Castillo was unable to help himself out and drive in a runner. While the Reds were only able to convert their 7 hits into 1 run after 4 innings, they had worked 70 pitches off Woodruff.
After India sent a single to left in the 5th inning, the entire Reds lineup had reached base other than Tyler Naquin and Eugenio Suarez. Both would have a chance to do damage top 6 with Woodruff over 100 pitches after Stephenson again singled to right field to lead off the inning. Neither was able to get the job done, however that would be Woodruff’s last inning of work.
It’s rare there could be a downside of chasing a starter as good as Woodruff from the game, but the bullpen is considered one of Milwaukee’s biggest strengths. The Reds managed only one base runner in the 7th with a walk to India, whose OBP is now up to .397, tied for 3rd in the National League- not too shabby for the rookie.
The Reds would have an uphill battle against Devin Williams and his “airbender” changeup in the 8th. Since coming up in 2019, Williams has allowed just one run in 35 plate appearances, 24 of which have ended in strikeouts against the Reds. They are not the only ones who have struggled against the young star reliever, but his .094 BA allowed is the lowest among any of his NL Central opponents. Joey Votto did his job getting a hit on a ball grounded to the right side, but that would be the only base runner Williams allowed. They’d have to beat Hader in the 9th, something that seems less daunting after Suarez’s heroics last night, the man due up first for the Reds top 9.
Suarez was immediately hit by Hader on a high fastball – his first hit batter of the year. It doesn’t take a detective to figure that could have been intentional after Suarez hit the game winning bomb last night against Hader. However the umpires issued no words to neither dugout nor Hader. Suarez at first took exception with 2 steps toward the mound, but cooler heads prevailed as he trotted to first base as the potential winning run.
Next up was Kyle Farmer pinch hitting for Freeman, and he delivered off the bench. Farmer sent a high fly ball up against the wall in right, however Suarez was only able to advance to 2nd waiting to see if Garcia would make the catch. After Alejo Lopez struck out pinch hitting, India stepped to the dish with runners on 1st and 2nd, one out. The rookie continued to do what he’s done all year and got on base- this time working an 8 pitch walk against the supposed best reliever in the National League. All-star starter Jesse Winker would step to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, however he had been 0 for his last 26 against left handers. Hader got the best of Winker with a sweeping slider he swung through, so the Reds other All Star would get his chance.
The NL leader in hits came through once again in the clutch. Castellanos smoked a ball 103 mph up the middle scoring both Suarez and Farmer, and the Reds led 3-1. You’d have to imagine if Hader indeed hit Suarez on purpose, he’d regret watching him cross home plate as the game winning run for the second game in a row. Hader was yanked by his manager Craig Counsell having given up only 6 runs the entire first half of the season- 3 of which came the last 2 days against the Cincinnati Reds. After a Votto fly out, the Reds would be 3 outs away from taking 3 of 4 from the Brewers.
🗣️ MVP pic.twitter.com/FfZpwGtHob
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 11, 2021
Reds fans would want no one other than their ace Luis Castillo starting the last game before the all-star break, as he’s posted an ERA of 2.00 in his June and July starts. Castillo has found both the velocity and location on fastball, which keeps hitters honest to the point his elite changeup becomes nearly unhittable.
In the bottom of the 1st, La Piedra had his weapon-pitch working early as he got a weak groundout from Yelich, and a strikeout the red-hot Adames on a nasty changeup with 33 inch vertical drop and 17 inch horizontal movement.
In the 2nd, Castillo ran into a bit of trouble with his sinker and fastball command. After striking out Garcia, he walked Jace Peterson on 5 pitches and Jackie Bradley Jr. on 4 pitches – and Bradley is hitting .164 on the year. It would not matter though, as Castillo got popouts from Tellez and the pitcher Woodruff to get out of the inning.
Castillo blazed through the 3rd inning in 8 pitches against the top of the Brewers order, including a painted 97.5 MPH fastball up and in to Yelich.
Castillo ran into trouble against the bottom of the lineup again in the 4th inning, loading the bases on a single to Garcia, and walks to Tellez and Bradley Jr- again a 4 pitch walk to a .164 hitter. Why Castillo was struggling with his command only against the bottom of the lineup is not clear- but he once again retired the opposing starter Woodruff, this time with 97.3 mph gas.
The command issues carried over bottom 5 for Castillo, as he walked Adames after allowing a bouncing single up the middle to Yelich. This last free pass was the 5th issued by Castillo on the day, to go along with 5 strikeouts. However once again with the pressure ratcheted up, Castillo delivered- this time with his glove hand. Castillo calmly collected a ball lined right back up the middle for out 2, then doubled off Adames at first who could not dive back in time. Castillo now had a solid single to left and an athletic double play to go with his 5 shutout innings – not bad for the Reds ace.
You're a wizard, Luis. 🧙♂️ pic.twitter.com/gXyQC3WCid
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 11, 2021
Bottom 6, Castillo served up a heavy dose of sliders to fool Garcia and strike him out swinging. However following his 6th strikeout, Castillo walked his 6th batter on the day, again to Peterson. That was enough for David Bell to pull the plug and bring in Amir Garrett. Garrett struck out the first batter he faced, Hiura, on a slider dipping out of the zone on an 0-2 pitch. Garrett then focused on on the next batter, Bradley Jr., allowing Peterson to steal 2nd base. This proved to be costly, as a grounded single to right field scored Peterson, tying the game at 1. It was just Bradley’s 6th hit of the year against left handed pitching. Garrett impressively struck out pinch-hitter Reyes on a 10 pitch at bat to end the inning, but likely wasn’t satisfied allowing his lone inherited runner to score.
As long as the offense continued to be subdued, the bullpen would be heavily be relied upon to get to the all-star break with a win. It would be Art Warren called upon in the 7th, who got the first out on one pitch as Freeman made a nice leaping catch to rob Urias of a hit on a liner with a .740 xBA. After getting Yelich to a 2-2 count, Warren left the game with an undisclosed injury. Sean Doolittle, who hadn’t pitched since Monday, was called upon to relieve Warren on short notice.
The nerves were cranked up for Reds fans as Doolittle was guaranteed to face the righty Adames even if he got Yelich out. Doolittle answered the bell, with some help from replay review and smart defensive positioning by the shortstop Mike Freeman. After getting Yelich to groundout to 1st, Adames softly blooped a single to right. Adames then attempted to steal, and Freeman kept the tag on Adames who popped off the bag for just long enough for the umpires to call him out on replay. The Reds would head to the 8th still knotted at 1.
Doolittle remained in for the lefty Narvaez, and got him to fly out to left. He was then pulled for rookie Ryan Hendrix, with the righty Garcia due up. It was an impressive high leverage one inning for Doolittle, especially considering he was asked to come on cold during the Warren injury.
The rookie Hendrix pitched excellently to get the Reds out of the 8th inning unscathed. He threw 8 pitches, 6 of which were sweeping sliders. He got Garcia to swing through a slider dropping 40 inches to the bottom of the zone, and Peterson chased two near the dirt. The patchwork bullpen had done their job thus far, going 2 2/3 innings and not giving up any earned runs (although Garrett allowed one inherited runner to score).
David Bell would turn to one of the “Waiver Boys,” Josh Osich, to close out the 9th inning. He struck out Hiura with a high dose of cutters and changeups down in the strike zone. He then got Bradley Jr. to fly out to left field- no left on left magic for Bradley again this time. Osich completed his 1st career save in his 246th appearance as he induced a groundball to short for the final out.
It was the 8th different Reds player to record a save in the 1st half, most in the storied franchise’s history. Credit to David Bell and Derek Johnson for patching together a bullpen ownership opted not to invest in – we’ll see if that changes with the team four games back heading into the break.
Most Valuable Players
- Nick Castellanos: .385 WPA (Win Probability Added)
- Luis Castillo: .271 WPA
- Jackie Bradley Jr. (Brewers): .228 WPA
- Nick Castellanos: 111.0 mph | Double in 1st inning
- Jesse Winker: 108.0 mph | Groundout in 3rd inning
- Joey Votto: 104.2 mph | Single in 1st inning
Unluckiest Out of the Day
- Luis Urias (Brewers): .740 xBA | Lineout in 7th inning
- Jesse Winker: .630 xBA | Flyout in 5th inning
Highest Velocities By Pitcher
- Luis Castillo: 98.3 mph
- Amir Garrett: 97.3 mph
- Art Warren: 94.9 mph
- Sean Doolittle: 96.3 mph
- Ryan Hendrix: 96.1 mph
- John Osich: 91.2 mph
Highest Pitch Spins
- Devin Williams (Brewers): 2,918 rpm | Airbender (Changeup)
- Brandon Woodruff (Brewers): 2,849 rpm | Curveball
Most Pitch Movement
- Brandon Woodruff (Brewers): 58 inches vertical movement | Curveball
- Luis Castillo: 22 inches horizontal movement | Changeup
Team Expected Batting Averages (xBA)
- Reds: .265
- Brewers: .150
The Reds head into the All Star break with a series win against the Brewers. They face the Brewers again for three games at Great American Ball Park starting 7/23.
Featured Image Credit: Rotowire
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