Greene only goes four innings on challenging night

June 30th, 2022

CHICAGO – The Cubs were content to let Reds pitcher Hunter Greene grind through every inning he worked. And work was the optimal word as little came easy for the right-hander on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

That’s one of the reasons it felt like Greene pitched eight innings – when it was actually only four – during an 8-3 loss.

“He just had to work really hard, and they did a good job of not chasing,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It wasn’t like he was wild or anything. They had some really good, tough at-bats. It just wasn’t really the night for Hunter to have to work really hard, go back out and try to go deep into the game.”

Greene gave up three earned runs and two hits over those four innings with two walks and five strikeouts. But it took a lot of pitches to even get that far -- 80, including 34 to get through a tedious bottom of the fourth inning.

“You never want to throw that many pitches in an inning,” Greene said. “I talked to DB and that’s why he took me out.”

Now 15 starts into his rookie season, Greene is 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA. It was the fifth time he was unable to complete at least five innings.

In the bottom of the first inning, Greene hit Willson Contreras with a pitch before Ian Happ hit an RBI double to left-center field. Cincinnati executed a perfect relay but Contreras beat the tag at the plate (which stood under review). Greene appeared to settle in and retired his next eight batters in a row.

Things went sideways, though, in the fourth inning when the first two batters, Happ and Patrick Wisdom, drew walks. Pitching coach Derek Johnson visited the mound, but Nico Hoerner made Greene pay quickly for the walks. A 2-2 slider over the plate was scorched for a two-run double that reached the wall in left-center field and stretched the deficit to three runs.

“It still clicked enough of the plate where he was able to get to it,” Greene said. “If it’s outside a little bit, it’s a swing-and-miss or a ground ball. I walked two hitters [with] one hit and that scores them. I’m trying to limit my walks and make sure that doesn’t happen. It makes it a lot easier for the outcome not to come out that way off of one hit. I felt really good with my body. There were times I felt like I overthrew a little bit, got a little jumpy and didn’t do the best of doubling up on my pitches. That’s kind of the takeaway from today.”

The rest of the side was retired in order, including final batter David Bote striking out on a slider. But that was enough work for one night.

“There’s certain nights that I’m going to let him pitch late into the game and do whatever we can to win a game. He needs that,” Bell said. “We want him out there to do that. Tonight wasn’t the night for a variety of reasons, mainly just the score, the amount of pitches he had to throw and how hard he had to work.”

According to Statcast, Greene’s fastball picked up velocity as it was averaging 99.5 mph, over a mile per hour faster than his season average. As he threw it 35 times, he touched triple digits multiple times, including once at 101.8 mph. But he wasn’t missing bats with three whiffs out of 15 swings and nine foul balls. The slider, used 44 times and more effective overall, picked up 10 misses out of 21 swings and nine called strikes.

“I felt like I did a really good job of throwing up in the zone and inside. Those guys didn’t chase as much as I’ve seen other teams chase,” Greene said. “That made it a little bit more challenging to go up to the top of the zone and expect a swing and miss. They weren’t doing that as much.”

One positive is that Greene -- MLB’s leader with 20 home runs allowed -- did not have any balls clear the fences on his watch against Chicago. That instead happened to Luis Cessa, who gave up Contreras’ two-run homer to center field in the fifth inning to make it 5-0 and effectively put away the game.