by Brian Goodman

Reds hold on to win 6-5, split mini series with Twins

There have been a few times this year when it felt as if the season could unravel if the Reds didn’t right the ship after a backbreaking loss. Today was an example. After yet another bullpen failure last night, the Reds sat 5 games out of the second wild card spot, and 7.5 games back of the Brewers in the NL Central. While no loss in early August will completely doom a season, the Reds could not afford to get 2-game swept by the 45-63 Minnesota Twins.

Luis Castillo did his part with another spectacular start, and the Reds offense kept their home cooking going with 6 runs. The bullpen is becoming consistent… in the ways they blow sizable leads. First come the walks, then come the hits. Luckily, the homegrown Michael Lorenzen was able to save the day, and the Reds came away with a much needed entry in the W column, 6-5.


Offense

Twins starter Charlie Barnes made his 2nd career start today, the first only going 4.2 innings on July 17. In that small sample size, it’s worth noting the left-handed Barnes rarely tops out over 90 mph, and he struck out only one batter. In AAA this season, he’s managed just a 4.24 FIP — nothing that indicates he has strong stuff to quell major league hitters. The Reds should have a strong chance to put the ball in play early and often so long as Barnes is in the game.

Indeed, the Reds sent 7 hitters to the plate in the 3rd, beginning with Shogo Akiyama lining single the other way to left center. Castillo laid down a sacrifice bunt to move over Akiyama and give the top of the order a chance to do some damage. After Jonathan India struck out and Jesse Winker worked the at-bat to a full count walk, Kyle Farmer began a good ol’ fashioned 2 out rally. Farmer scorched a line drive (106.8 mph exit velo) right in front of the left fielder, but with a great jump Akiyama was able to score and even the game at 1-1. Joey Votto continued his extra base hit tear, this time shooting a double in the left-center gap, scoring both Winker and Farmer to give the Reds a 3-1 lead.

The Reds have seen an abundance of Votto and Farmer run producing hits the past month, which has been especially clutch as of late given the absence of MVP candidate Nick Castellanos.

The Reds were not done however, as the 5 hole hitter Tyler Stephenson, grounded a ball through the Twins 5 hole, once again testing the arm of left fielder Brent Rooker. The Reds won that battle once again, as Votto beat the throw home to give the Reds a 4-1 lead. Eugenio Suárez lined a sharp ball up the middle — but the Twins defensive alignment had him shaded that way to record the 3rd out of the inning.

The Reds tacked on another run in the bottom 4th, when Akiyama took a one out walk and Castillo once again sacrificed him over to second base. NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India continues to get on base at an impressive clip (now 4th in the NL with a .404 OBP), and this time he rocketed a single to left on the 8th pitch of a meticulous AB to score Akiyama and put the Reds up 5-1.

The Reds threatened in the 5th inning when Farmer and Votto led off with walks, but Stephenson, Suárez and Aristides Aquino all struck out swinging against Twins reliever Juan Minaya. India picked up his second hit of the day with a double in the 6th, but ultimately was stranded when Winker couldn’t pick up Minaya’s fastball and struck out swinging.

In the bottom of the 7th, it was the other Reds rookie who came up huge. Tyler Stephenson tattooed (104.1 mph exit velo, 420 ft) a Beau Burrows changeup over the home bullpen to put the Reds up 6-1, which ultimately proved to be the difference in the ballgame (more on the Reds bullpen below).

The Reds managed only one baserunner (Akiyama walk) in the 8th, so 6 runs would have to be enough to avoid a mini sweep.

Pitching

Luis Castillo has still been scorching hot since June 1, not allowing more than 3 runs in any of his last 11 starts. The first time through the lineup, Castillo had all of his primary pitches working: 4-seam fastball with movement, his wicked circle changeup, and occasionally mixed in slider. Unfortunately in the top of the 1st, he did miss over the heart of the plate with a fastball to last night’s Twins hero Jorge Polanco, who took Luis’s 97.9 mph heat to the right field seats to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. To every other Twins hitter though, La Piedra was blowing his fastball by and when he wasn’t, he often induced ground balls with his changeup or sinker.

In the top of the 3rd, Castillo was set to face the top of the Twins lineup for the second time around. After getting Kepler to groundout for out 1, Luis got Rooker to swing and miss at 2 changeups that dropped right below the strike zone, then blew him away with 98.4 mph tailing gas for the strikeout. Castillo then got his redemption against Polanco. He gave him no chances to jump on a fastball this time around, throwing 4 unhittable changeups, all with 33+ inch vertical movement and 17 inch+ horizontal movement.

By the time Castillo came out for the 4th, he now had a 4-1 lead. After jamming Luis Arraez into a cheap bloop double spinning off the chalk down the 3rd base line, Luis bounced back to strike out Miguel Sano and Trevor Larnach. He attacked Sano by alternating between fastball and off-speed to keep him off balance, eventually buckling him with an 86 mph slider for a called strike three. For Larnach it was three straight fastballs up in the zone to set up a filthy changeup right at the knees, which Larnach swung through for the punchout.

Luis got a 1-2-3 inning with 2 groundouts and a flyout in the top of the 5th inning, with none of the batted balls giving the defense any trouble. Castillo returned in the 6th inning now with a 5-1 lead, and the first two batters (Polanco and Arraez) reached base with a single and walk. With 2 on and no outs, Luis approached Sano with pitches at the bottom of the zone, likely trying to induce a double play. Castillo was successful on the 3rd pitch, getting Sano to ground to India who made a good pick at second and flipped to Farmer, who made a nice turn and throw to complete the Twin killing. After a lazy fly to Winker with a runner on 3rd, Luis was out of the jam and the game after 101 pitches. The final line included 6 IP, 7 Ks, 1 BB, and 1 earned run.

For the game, Luis got swing and misses on a ridiculous 46% of his changeups batters swung at, more in line with his career numbers than the 29.9% so far this season. Additionally, out of the 16 balls the Twins put in play against Luis, 10 were ground balls for a GB% of 62.5%, well above the ML average of 45.2% and the 54.9% Castillo has induced this season. Couple that with 7 strikeouts, and it’s no wonder the Twins only had one runner cross the plate with La Piedra on the mound.

With a 4 run lead and 9 outs to go, the Reds turned to the bullpen. An all-too-familiar scene played out in the 7th and 8th innings. First came the walks. Two were issued by Amir Garrett in the 7th, and although no runs scored, it forced David Bell to bring in Brad Brach to face right-handed hitter Rooker, who popped out in foul territory.

Brach stayed in the 8th and walked two more batters. Next came the hits. Brach gave up a line drive double to Sano, making the score 6-2 Reds and ending the reliever’s day. He threw 18 pitches, 10 of which were balls. Not ideal. Brach will be a strong candidate for DFA when Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone are activated, along with Doolitle and Hoffman.

Recently acquired Luis Cessa was brought in, now facing Larnach with runners on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. Larnach grounded a double past Votto, scoring both runners. Cessa is a slider/ ground ball pitcher, and in some ways did his job by getting a .260 xBA roller down the first base line. It further highlighted the old adage: walks will haunt. After getting a groundout for the first out of the inning, Cessa gave up a hard single to left to Jeffers, and his day was done after facing the minimum 3 batters and the score now 6-5.

Michael Lorenzen was called upon with a runner on 1st and one out in the inning. Lorenzen’s first task was to face pinch hitter Josh Donaldson, a former AL MVP (2015). Lorenzen struck out Donaldson looking on a 97.2 mph fastball just off the plate, and the Reds were one out away from ending this nightmare of an inning. It would not come in the next at-bat though, as Kepler scorched a double that reached the right field wall. With Jeffers running the bases and Aquino quick to field and relay the ball to the infield, no runs crossed the plate. Lorenzen then struck out Rooker swinging on a cutter up and away, after setting him up on a low changeup the pitch before. The Reds were 3 outs away from a victory, but with Lorenzen throwing an inning yesterday and 15 pitches already in the 8th inning, it was unlikely he’d be able to finish off the game for a 5-out save.

Lorenzen defied the odds and did just that in the 9th inning, even against the Twins 3-4-5 hitters. He struck out Polanco (the Reds will be happy not to see him the rest of the season) on 96.2 mph heat for the first out of the inning, then Arraez looped an inside pitch to right field for a single. With Lorenzen now at 26 pitches, he’d have to be lifted soon. However on his 27th and last pitch of the game, he got a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play to give the Reds the win.

Lorenzen was fired up, and rightfully so — after reinjuring himself in his first appearance this season on June 17, he’s come off the IL to turn in 3 straight scoreless appearances. Lorenzen bailed out a struggling Reds bullpen, one that has allowed a run in 8 of the last 9 9th innings before today. Nevertheless, the Reds emerged victorious and will gladly welcome the lowly Pirates for 4 games at GABP this weekend.

Stats

Most Valuable Players

  • Michael Lorenzen: .284 WPA (Win Probability Added)
  • Luis Arraez (Twins): .224 WPA
  • Joey Votto: .198 WPA

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Kyle Farmer: 106.8 mph | Single in 3rd inning
  • Brent Rooker (Twins): 106.8 mph | Groundout in 1st inning
  • Aristides Aquino: 106.6 mph | Groundout in 2nd inning

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Eugenio Suarez: .610 xBA | Lineout in 4th inning

Highest Velocities By Pitcher

  • Luis Castillo: 97.8 mph
  • Amir Garrett: 95.7 mph
  • Luis Cessa: 93.9 mph
  • Brad Brach: 93.6 mph
  • Michael Lorenzen: 97.8 mph

Highest Pitch Spins

  • Michael Lorenzen: 2,588 rpm | Cutter

Most Pitch Movement

  • Luis Cessa: 46 inches vertical movement | Slider
  • Luis Castillo: 24 inches horizontal movement | Changeup

Team Expected Batting Averages (xBA)

  • Reds: .273
  • Twins: .259
What’s Next?

The Reds welcome the Pirates to Great American Ball Park to begin a four game series. Thursday’s matchup pits Sonny Gray against Wil Crowe at 7:10 EST.

Featured Image: @Reds on Twitter


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Brian began going to Reds games with his grandparents at a young age and instantly fell in love. He simultaneously was intrigued with the numbers within the game, never missing the next morning's box score in the paper. A proud graduate of Indiana University, Brian currently lives in Chicago, IL and works in data science. Follow him on twitter @bg00dies.

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Matt
Matt
2 months ago

Mini series but BIG in terms of momentum. Go Reds!

Who Dey Kev
Who Dey Kev
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Huge big.