CINCINNATI -- The season isn't officially over just yet for the Reds, but starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani has already given himself winter homework. DeSclafani believes he can take his game to another level, but not without a third and fourth pitch to counteract the adjustments hitters have made against him.In
CINCINNATI -- The season isn't officially over just yet for the Reds, but starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani has already given himself winter homework. DeSclafani believes he can take his game to another level, but not without a third and fourth pitch to counteract the adjustments hitters have made against him.
In an 8-4 Reds loss to the Pirates on Friday at Great American Ball Park, DeSclafani gave up the go-ahead home run to Elias Diaz in the fourth inning on a full-count slider.
"I know I've got to get better," DeSclafani said. "This game will kick you in the butt, and it's going to challenge you to make changes. If you want to be successful in this game, you've got to be able to adapt on the fly. In September, I wasn't able to do that. But it doesn't mean I can't do that for next year. There are definitely some things I'm going to work on. I'm not going to take this game for granted. Hopefully I am able to make the adjustments and be part of this team going forward."
In five innings, DeSclafani allowed three earned runs and three hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He finished the year 7-8 with a 4.93 ERA in 21 starts after he missed the first two months of the season with a left oblique strain.
Following a strong August where he had a 2.62 ERA in five starts, DeSclafani's six starts in September were disappointing. He limped to a 0-4 record and 6.75 ERA for the month.
DeSclafani will attempt to improve his curveball and add a changeup to go with his fastball and slider. Cincinnati is expected to revamp its rotation and possibly make acquisitions in the winter, and he wants to make sure he's more competitive for the club.
"I know the curveball is in there. It's tough when you're kind of struggling to add that third pitch and make it useful," DeSclafani said. "Going into the offseason, hopefully I develop the curveball and changeup, and then it's off to the races. I know I am way better than what I showed this year."
DeSclafani opened his night having to battle his way through the top of the first inning. A leadoff double by Adam Frazier and walk to Starling Marte set up a one-out RBI double to left-center field by Corey Dickerson. Diaz followed with a sacrifice fly to center field for a 2-0 Pirates lead.
In the bottom of the third inning, Joey Votto hit a one-out double, and with two outs, Eugenio Suarez drove a 2-2 pitch from Nick Kingham over the center-field wall for a game-tying, two-run homer -- his team-high 33rd.
DeSclafani had retired nine in a row after the Dickerson double in the first inning, but Pittsburgh quickly reclaimed its lead with one out in the top of the fourth. On a 3-2 slider that hung over the plate, Diaz crushed a solo homer to the left-field upper deck. The drive had an exit velocity of 102.2 mph, according to Statcast™, the hardest ball hit against DeSclafani in the game. The average exit velocity on all 84 of his pitches was 81.1 mph.
Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman believes he's seen flashes when DeSclafani threw some of his best stuff during the season.
"We saw some real good things, especially in August. I think he's throwing the ball better than he ever has," Riggleman said. "Pitching, when you're facing these Major League hitters nowadays, they've made it so tough that you've got to find more pitches in your repertoire to keep them down."
The biggest positive for DeSclafani heading into his offseason? It will be a normal offseason, where he is healthy and can simply work on his craft. He missed all of 2017 rehabilitating from a right elbow injury. That came after a truncated '16 season when he opened with another left oblique strain that limited him to 20 starts.
"I'm glad he showed that he was healthy," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "He's a friend just as much as he is a teammate. To see a guy that's battled through so much in his career as far as injuries are concerned, especially the last couple of years, to see him healthy and finish the season healthy, it's definitely a good sign."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Career-high five hits for Barnhart: In the first 5-for-5 game of his career, Barnhart had three singles, a triple and two-run home run. His second hit was a triple to right field that got by Frazier, and he reached third base standing up. The third hit was a lucky single that kissed off of second base, and his fourth hit was a bunted single to the left side. In the ninth inning, Barnhart slugged a two-run home run to right field against Dovydas Neverauskas.
"It stinks it came in a loss, for sure, but it's definitely a night I won't forget," said Barnhart, who has 10 homers this season.
Cincinnati has lost six games in a row and seven of eight to reach 94 losses -- its total from each of the previous two seasons.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the top of the fourth inning with two outs, Kevin Kramer launched a drive to deep right-center field. Center fielder Billy Hamilton and right fielder Phillip Ervin converged on the ball, and both went airborne as they each attempted the catch. The teammates made contact, but Hamilton somehow secured the ball in his glove for the third out and held on as he hit the warning track on his back.
The Reds' penultimate game of 2018 will have Michael Lorenzen making his third start, facing the Pirates and ace Jameson Taillon at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. After a nice first start of the season against Milwaukee with one unearned run and one hit allowed over four innings on Sept. 18, Lorenzen struggled, allowing four runs and nine hits over four innings, in Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Marlins. A reliever the past three seasons, he is seeking consideration for the 2019 rotation.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.