Greene's start takes wrong turn with inconsistent slider

Reds right-hander logs nine K's, grinds out six frames against hard-hitting Brewers

April 11th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- put a lot of time and sweat equity this past offseason and Spring Training into trying to make his slider a pitch that can take the Reds starter's game to the next level.

On Wednesday evening during a 7-2 Cincinnati loss to Milwaukee at rainy Great American Ball Park, the slider was a reason Greene's night went off the rails early. Following a one-hour, 50-minute rain delay before the start, he gave up seven runs (six earned) on six hits and one walk over six innings.

“Tonight, it probably wasn’t as good as it has been. That’s obvious," Reds catcher Luke Maile said of Greene's slider. "He still stepped on a couple that were really nice."

Greene, who threw 40 sliders out of his 105 pitches, had a 60 percent strike percentage when using it. But he also paid dearly when he didn't execute it well. Milwaukee took a 5-0 lead after two innings.

In a plodding 28-pitch top of the first inning, Greene walked leadoff hitter Jackson Chourio on five pitches. Two batters later, it was quickly a 2-0 deficit when Christian Yelich hit a 1-1 slider over the middle of the plate for a two-run home run to right field.

“This team is obviously ready to hit and ready to swing it out of the gates," Greene said. "I knew that. I think those first two innings, being able to locate those pitches better, I know they're swinging it if it’s over the plate. They’re swinging it hard.”

The Brewers' second inning began when another leadoff batter, Jake Bauers, reached after being hit by a 1-1 slider. Three straight two-out hits led to three more runs.

Chourio's RBI single to left field scored Bauers, with Spencer Steer's throwing error putting two runners into scoring position. William Contreras' two-run single to right field on a first-pitch fastball made it a 5-0 game.

In the fourth inning, Greene's 1-2 slider in the dirt hit leadoff batter Blake Perkins on the foot, leading to another Brewers run on a Chourio sacrifice fly. Perkins added a one-out solo homer to right-center field against Greene in the sixth.

“Slider was a little inconsistent, I would say. That’s a big pitch for Hunter," manager David Bell said. “He did give us six innings on what was not his best night. If he continues to have that life on the fastball, the slider is going to come around for him. We have that to look forward to.”

Greene also had trouble putting hitters away when he was ahead. Several times with two strikes, he would use extra pitches as hitters kept hitting foul balls to extend at-bats.

"I’ve also had a ton of at-bats where [in] that 0-2, 1-2 [count], I’m throwing great pitches and they’re fouling off, fouling off. And they’re perfectly executed pitches," said Greene, who struck out nine.

"It goes back and forth, but there’s times where it’s like, ‘Can you just roll that over or pop that up?’ Sometimes it goes my way and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Greene retired eight of his final nine batters.

“The biggest takeaway I had tonight, I think that’s a start that in the past has maybe gotten away from him. But tonight, he was able to cover six innings and made adjustments where he needed to," Maile said.

"I told him it’s easy to look good when you’re dominant. I think the separator for who he wants to be is when it’s not going your way, still being able to cover innings for us is huge.”

Greene is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA through three starts this season. Wednesday was a step backwards from a more dominant six-inning, one-run performance vs. the Mets on Friday for a no-decision.

In five career starts vs. Milwaukee, Greene is 0-5 with an 8.25 ERA and 11 homers allowed.

"He's been good against us, too, if you look at it," Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. "He's a great young pitcher, a guy throwing 100 mph with command. He's got a good breaking ball. I like this kid a lot. He's an athlete. You can see why there's so much made about him.

“We might have clipped him early a couple of games, but he's been good against us, too. It's always a war. Because he's so good, he kind of brings out the best in you.”