Spiers provides silver lining as Reds' win streak ends

June 9th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' first look at Japanese pitching sensation Shota Imanaga proved to be their winning-streak kryptonite on Sunday, as Cincinnati had its seven-game heater snapped in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Great American Ball Park.

Despite the loss, the Reds have plenty of positives to take from their recent hot stretch to show what might be possible as they chase their first playoff berth since 2020.

One of the biggest bright spots has been reliever , who showed his value again on Sunday with a stellar long-relief outing. After starter Frankie Montas allowed four earned runs and lasted just 1 1/3 innings, Spiers entered the game in the second to put out the fire and then held the Cubs scoreless for the next 5 2/3 frames. He scattered four hits while striking out seven in what was the longest outing of his career.

"What he's showing, he can pitch in any spot," manager David Bell said, praising Spiers' versatility as a starter or reliever. "Really good action on his pitches. Great mix of pitches -- four or five different pitches that he can throw for strikes, which is so important. And they all have really good movement on them."

Spiers' outing lowered his ERA to 2.33 in 19 1/3 innings this season, with 15 strikeouts to just four walks.

"He's showing the kind of stuff that will have success here," Bell said. "We know that, but for him to have that success here, I think, has been really important."

Bell didn't commit to using Spiers as a starter the next time through the rotation, saying there are "a lot of moving parts" that go into those decisions.

But Spiers, 26, is confident in his ability to compete and be successful at the highest level, regardless of how the team wants to use him.

"All I care about really is helping the team win," Spiers said. "Whether that's [as] a starter, as a reliever, as a back-end guy, I don't really get caught up in that stuff. I just try to do my role."

He performed his role exceptionally on Sunday, but the damage had been done before he entered the game.

Montas walked Cubs leadoff batter Mike Tauchman to start the game, and things went downhill from there. After a Seiya Suzuki double off the left-field wall and a one-out walk to Christopher Morel loaded the bases, Ian Happ sent everyone home with a double to put the Cubs up 3-0. Montas was able to limit the damage to those three runs, though he labored through a 39-pitch first inning that also included a third walk.

After allowing an RBI single to Tauchman and a one-out hit to Cody Bellinger in the second, Montas was done for the day. The 1 1/3-inning outing was his shortest non-injury start since 2022.

"Definitely wasn't in sync with my mechanics," Montas said. "Every pitcher has rough starts like that. But the only thing I can do is literally just move up to the next one."

Imanaga pitched a strong 6 2/3 innings on Sunday, holding the Reds to two runs on five hits, striking out seven and cooling off an offense that had averaged seven runs per game during the seven-game winning streak. The win moved Imanaga to 6-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 1.96, and allowed the struggling Cubs to salvage the finale of the four-game series.

The Reds got on the board when Luke Maile homered to lead off the third and added a run in the seventh on an RBI single from Santiago Espinal before Mark Leiter Jr. came on in relief of Imanaga to strand a runner at third and squelch the rally.

The Reds' winning streak was their longest since they won 12 straight last season. Sunday's loss prevented Cincinnati from reaching the .500 mark for the first time since May 3.

Still, the Reds have won 11 of their past 16 to put themselves firmly in the National League Wild Card hunt. During that stretch leading up to Sunday, they hit .310 as a team with an .889 OPS, while their pitchers assembled a combined 3.14 ERA.