CHICAGO -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has seen pitcher Cody Reed struggle with his stuff, his confidence and at times, his overall performance. Therefore, when Reed delivered five scoreless innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts during a 1-0 Cincinnati loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday, Barnhart knew
CHICAGO -- Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has seen pitcher Cody Reed struggle with his stuff, his confidence and at times, his overall performance. Therefore, when Reed delivered five scoreless innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts during a 1-0 Cincinnati loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday, Barnhart knew that it was meaningful.
"Obviously we lost and that's the worst part about the day, clearly, but he's come a long way," Barnhart said of Reed. "Today was hopefully that springboard outing that, maybe not 10 punchouts in five innings, but that similar type of outing as far as trusting his stuff in the strike zone early in the count and expanding later. Hopefully, that kind of transitions into something that we see a lot more often. The ability, obviously, is there. It showed today. That's never been a question."
After Reed was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth, Barnhart told Reed that this game was the best he had ever seen from him. Reed knew it, too.
"It was fun out there. When I came out, I didn't even shake Tucker's hand. I just gave him the biggest hug," Reed said.
Reed was not on the mound when Cincinnati fell behind on Willson Contreras' two-out RBI single in the sixth inning. His search for his first big league win as a starter has proved elusive, though Saturday was the type of outing that would often merit one. He had the misfortune of working opposite of Jonathan Lester's great performance for the Cubs, as Chicago's lefty allowed two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over his seven innings.
Although he has one Major League victory to his credit as a reliever in 2017, Reed is winless in 16 career starts. He gave up two hits -- including one infield single -- vs. Chicago with two walks. His first five batters were retired in order; it appeared a good day was at hand when he struck out Javier Baez with a hard-breaking 89 mph slider with a full count to end the first.
"Tucker trusted me to throw a 3-2 slider in the first inning and I executed it and got the strikeout," Reed said. "He trusted me and I trusted him. I didn't shake one time. It just kind of got the ball rolling."
It's been a while since Reed has had this type of success in a start. He pitched six scoreless innings once, but it was two years ago on Aug. 8, 2016, at St. Louis. In parts of three big league seasons, the 25-year-old has been up and down to Triple-A Louisville and has missed chances to win openings in the rotation. Reed returned to the big leagues on Aug. 13, appearing more confident as he took over a bullpen role, but he's got a 5.40 ERA in five 2018 starts. However, Barnhart sees more maturity in Reed this time around.
"One walk or one hit in the past maybe translated to falling behind the next guy and having to throw a cookie in there that gets hit or guys being able to pigeonhole him into the spot or the pitch they are looking for," Barnhart said. "When he's able to see himself have confidence and he's able to pitch in the strike zone early like he was today, it puts guys on the defensive. We talk about Cole Hamels and how he puts guys on the defensive because of those swinging strikes and it keeps you off-balance and things like that. I felt like Cody was able to do that today.
"He got early contact and obviously, when you punch out 10 guys in five innings, you're doing something right, putting guys away. He was able to get ahead of guys. I think that speaks to the maturity … being able to say, 'Here it is. If you hit it, you hit it. But I'm going to take my chances that you're not going to hit it very hard.'"
Reed and Friday starter Matt Harvey combined for 11 scoreless innings in their outings. Both came up empty for wins and both saw the game be decided in the very next inning after their removal. Reed had 91 pitches and could have stayed in.
"It's kind of the same thing as last night," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's getting close to the end and if I send him out there and somebody gets on base, he's coming out. I'd rather have the reliever start the inning clean, if possible. That's the decision I made."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Contreras fights off Romano, shadows:Sal Romano replaced Reed for the bottom of the sixth and Baez led off with an infield single to second base. With two outs, Contreras chopped an RBI single into right field to break the scoreless tie. The Reds had second baseman Dilson Herrera positioned behind the bag, leaving the right side wide open for Contreras. Riggleman noted that hitters on both clubs struggled with the late-afternoon shadows over the plate.
"I think he was fighting the ball off because he couldn't see the ball," Riggleman said of Contreras. "Unfortunately, it ended up being a dribbler through the right side for the only run of the game. It just looked, like everybody else, he had trouble seeing the ball. That was kind of an emergency swing a little bit."
HE SAID IT
"You hate to lose. There is no silver lining, but I'd rather get beat by one run than eight or nine. You get beat by a bunch, I don't like that. I don't like feeling like we aren't competitive. We've been competitive all year against them." -- Riggleman, on the Reds, who have dropped eight straight games vs. the Cubs -- with five of them being one-run losses
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Billy Hamilton walked against Lester in the sixth and stole second base, and immediately danced off of third base to try to fluster Lester, who has had trouble holding runners in the past. As Jose Peraza batted with one out, Hamilton took third base and was called safe. However, the Cubs challenged the call and replay officials overturned it, and Hamilton was caught stealing third base for the second out.
"We like Billy out there running. Contreras made a good throw," Riggleman said.
For the 2:20 p.m. ET season-series finale vs. the Cubs on Sunday, the Reds will start Luis Castillo with the hope he can put together back-to-back strong starts. Castillo pitched brilliantly for 6 1/3 innings for a 3-1 win over the Dodgers on Tuesday, with one earned run, four hits, one walk and nine strikeouts. But he has trended all season toward alternating strong starts with rougher ones. Lefty Jose Quintana is scheduled to start for Chicago at Wrigley Field.
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.