'Like throwing with your eyes closed': Williamson, 'pen struggle with rain

June 27th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- After a rain-soaked Monday night at Camden Yards combined with a short start by and another taxing night for a well-worn bullpen, the air that filled Cincinnati's balloon from its dynamic 12-game win streak has slowly leaked.

The Reds dropped their third-straight game during a 10-3 loss to the Orioles.

“Honestly, I’ve never had anything that bad. The mound, not only was it soft, I was just sliding everywhere. I couldn’t get a consistent feeling for anything," Williamson said. "Honestly, I wish I could go back and say ‘let’s just reconvene.’”

The latest loss put the Reds (41-38) back into second place behind the Brewers in the National League Central standings. The slog of Monday's game felt a long way from the charged atmosphere of the previous week at Great American Ball Park.

"When you play in an environment like we did last weekend, the crowd really brings the energy and it doesn’t really take you to bring energy," said left fielder , who notched three hits and a walk with a two-run homer. "A night like tonight you have to really dig deep and find a way to not only be present, but create your own energy because it was bad weather, [a] late game, [and we] had a huge delay.

"Those are situations you’ve really got to dig deep and find a way to be there, be focused, and play all nine innings. We fell short. It is what it is. And we’ve got a chance at them tomorrow."

Deluges of showers delayed first pitch by 15 minutes and stopped the bottom of the third inning for one hour and 44 minutes. It also poured hard throughout Williamson's two-plus innings with the left-handed rookie having trouble working under the adverse conditions.

Williamson, who is Cincinnati's No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, issued four walks with two hits while giving up three earned runs. His inability to grip the ball well and several fouls helped Baltimore's hitters run up Williamson's pitch count quickly. He threw 67 pitches, including 39 in the two-run bottom of the second inning.

"It was like throwing with your eyes closed," Williamson said. “It’s really hard to throw a single strike in those conditions with how hard it was raining. Then you have to pretty much throw only fastballs because it’s really, really hard to spin a ball for a strike in those conditions."

Two relief-pitching rookies were summoned from Triple-A Louisville as reinforcements earlier in the day to give the Reds' bullpen a chance to catch their collective breath. 

They at least did just that.

Up for his second big league stint, rookie Eduardo Salazar was not effective in his one inning of work in the fifth. Salazar missed out on one out when center fielder TJ Friedl slipped on wet grass as Anthony Santander hit a catchable fly ball to center field that instead landed for a single. After a walk came three runs that opened a 7-1 Orioles lead.

The other reliever called up, Jake Wong, made his big league debut in the sixth inning. Wong gave up an infield hit and one-out walk but escaped damage with a double play. Baltimore pounced in the seventh inning with four hits, a walk and three more runs to make it a seven-run game but Wong was able to finish with a scoreless eighth.

The best news from a rough night – besides Steer's offensive performance – was that Cruz, Salazar and Wong made it possible for no one else to be needed.

That gave closer Alexis Díaz, who had to be used in a losing effort vs. the Braves on Sunday, a night off as well as Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut, Buck Farmer, Alex Young and Daniel Duarte.

“Really important," manager David Bell said. "It’s not going to show up in the win or loss column tonight, but it could help us moving forward. Jake Wong was a big reason why. On his Major League debut, to be able to pitch like that. The linescore could’ve been much better too. He showed really good stuff. He should be really proud of his first time out -- not only for himself, he did help us moving forward for our bullpen.”

Reds general manager Nick Krall and Bell, who have had to shuffle relievers in and out from Louisville on a near-daily basis the past two-plus weeks, may need more fresh help to get through the series.

“We’ll have to figure that out," Bell said. "We haven’t talked through that much yet.”