by Matt Wilkes

Luis Castillo leads Reds to 6-4 win over Cardinals

Although the bullpen tried its best to make things interesting, the Reds nailed down their second win in a row over the Cardinals on Friday night, 6-4.

The Reds jumped out to an early lead, and Luis Castillo made it stand up as he turned in one of his best starts of the season. By taking the first two games of the series, the Reds have climbed back within 5.5 games of the Cubs for first place in the NL Central and knocked the Cardinals down to third in the division.


Offense

Behind a pair of home runs from the rookies, the Reds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Tyler Stephenson led off with a solo blast to left field for his third homer of the year (104.5 mph, 368 feet).

After Kyle Farmer was hit by a pitch, Jonathan India skied a pitch to left field (129 feet apex) for a two-run blast (102.6 mph, 375 feet).

That was just the start of a big night for India, who reached base in all four plate appearances (a double and two walks in addition to the homer). India’s recent hot spell has him up to a 109 wRC+ for the season. It may be time to bat him higher than seventh or eighth in the lineup — or at the very least, ahead of Kyle Farmer, Mike Freeman, and Scott Heineman.

India was a part of the action when the Reds scored again in the sixth inning. He drew a two-out walk and scored on a double by Castillo that traveled 398 feet and nearly left the park to straightaway center field. At 100.0 mph and a 26-degree launch angle, it was the first barreled ball of Castillo’s career as a hitter. He has one more barrel this season than Alex Blandino and Shogo Akiyama.

Up 4-1, the Reds played add on in the ninth inning, plating two runs that proved to be extremely valuable. With one out, Jesse Winker singled and Nick Castellanos hit a ground-rule double to extend his hitting streak to 20 games. Stephenson followed with an RBI single. Akiyama followed with a ground ball back to the pitcher, who tried unsuccessfully to turn a double play by throwing to second base and let Castellanos score from third base.

Pitching

The Reds need Luis Castillo to get on track, and Friday was a nice step in the right direction. The right-hander allowed just one run, three hits, and one walk in six innings of work while striking out five. His only blemish came in the fifth inning, when he allowed a solo home run to Edmundo Sosa. Even that pitch, a changeup on the inside corner, wasn’t particularly bad.

Castillo was sitting at 98 mph with his fastball and used his sinker and four-seamer effectively up and down in the zone. He had 16 whiffs on the night, getting five apiece with his sinker and four-seamer. His changeup still wasn’t at its best (25% whiff rate) and he used it just 21 times. If he can keep spotting his fastballs, though, hopefully the changeup will start to come around.

Without a gaudy strikeout total, Castillo relied on getting soft contact to keep the Cardinals at bay. Only four of the 17 batted balls he allowed were hit at 95+ mph, and he held St. Louis to an average exit velocity of 81.0 mph.

With Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims unavailable, the game unsurprisingly got dicey when Castillo turned it over to the bullpen.

Brad Brach was one of the few bright spots. He took over for Castillo in the seventh inning and fired a perfect frame, notching two strikeouts in the process.

Ryan Hendrix took over in the eighth and retired the first two hitters he faced. The inning went awry when he gave up a two-out double to Dylan Carlson and walked Paul Goldschmidt on four pitches. Heath Hembree was brought on to face Nolan Arenado and struck him out on a slider out of the zone. He got four whiffs on seven swings against his slider on the night.

After the Reds had extended their lead to 6-1, Hembree was sent back out to finish the game in the ninth. He got Yadier Molina to ground out before walking Tyler O’Neill on four pitches and giving up an RBI double to Matt Carpenter. He then struck out Sosa before he was removed for Sean Doolittle with two outs. Doolittle didn’t retire a batter, giving up a walk, a two-run double, and a single before he was also yanked from the game.

With the game-winning run standing at the plate in Goldschmidt, David Bell turned to Michael Feliz to get the final out. Mercifully, Feliz struck out Goldschmidt on three pitches, all swinging strikes, to end the game.

Bullpen roulette, everyone.

Stats

Most Valuable Players

  • Luis Castillo: .201 WPA (Win Probability Added)
  • Jonathan India: .181 WPA
  • Tyler Stephenson: .091 WPA

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Eugenio Suarez: 107.6 mph | Single in 7th inning
  • Tyler Stephenson: 104.5 mph | Home run in 2nd inning
  • Jonathan India: 102.6 mph | Home run in 2nd inning

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Jesse Winker: .630 xBA | Lineout in 5th inning

Highest Velocities By Pitcher

  • Luis Castillo: 99.1 mph
  • Brad Brach: 94.3 mph
  • Ryan Hendrix: 98.6 mph
  • Heath Hembree: 95.9 mph
  • Sean Doolittle: 93.3 mph
  • Michael Feliz: 94.9 mph

Highest Pitch Spins

  • Heath Hembree: 3,067 rpm | Slider

Most Pitch Movement

  • Sean Doolittle: 45 inches vertical movement | Curveball
  • Luis Castillo: 20 inches horizontal movement | Changeup

Team Expected Batting Averages (xBA)

  • Cardinals: .262
  • Reds: .268
What’s Next?

The Reds will try to secure the series win on Saturday as Tyler Mahle faces off against Johan Oviedo. First pitch is set for 2:15 p.m. EST in Busch Stadium.

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire


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Matt 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 the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.