CINCINNATI -- Based on their collective performance in 2018, the Reds' rotation certainly has more questions than answers heading into the offseason and '19. But if Luis Castillo can pitch like he did on Tuesday against the Dodgers more consistently, that would be quite a starter to have in the
CINCINNATI -- Based on their collective performance in 2018, the Reds' rotation certainly has more questions than answers heading into the offseason and '19. But if Luis Castillo can pitch like he did on Tuesday against the Dodgers more consistently, that would be quite a starter to have in the answer column.
Castillo delivered 6 1/3 impressive innings during the Reds' 3-1 victory over the Dodgers at Great American Ball Park. He allowed one earned run and four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. Cincinnati has won all six of its games against Los Angeles this campaign, with one game remaining in the season series.
"You can't ask guys to do what he did tonight. We don't raise the bar that high," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "But you do see where he can go. We just need good, solid performances. We need guys to give us five, six innings. In today's world, if you get that, you'll certainly take it. He was more than that tonight. That was a great ballgame really, striking people out, a great changeup against a very good lineup. He's done that a few times for us."
Castillo gave up Joc Pederson's leadoff single in the first inning and a one-out single to Manny Machado to put himself in danger. Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal each opened with 2-0 counts, but Castillo threw three straight strikes to both hitters, finishing them both with changeups to strike out the side.
"He just kind of took off from there," Reds catcher Curt Casali said. "I felt like we were getting them off-balance pretty well throughout the entire game."
The first-inning strikeouts began Castillo's streak of retiring the next 15 batters in a row. He struck out the side in the third inning and got five straight outs on ground balls in the fourth and fifth innings.
"He was throwing whatever he wanted in any count," Bellinger said. "When you're throwing 98 with movement and got that changeup moving in any count, you tip your cap. That's good stuff right there. We were watching video and that's the best he was throwing his changeup all year. When you face guys like that, you have to take advantage of guys on base and we haven't been doing that lately."
Castillo's shutout bid ended with one out in the sixth when Pederson lifted a home run into the right-field seats.
Often in the high 90s with triple-digits last season, Castillo's diminished velocity has been a talking point at times this season. However, the right-hander has continually worked on raising his arm angle to get more gas. His two-seam fastball, which has averaged 95.4 mph this season, averaged 97.1 mph on Tuesday, according to Statcast™. With both his two-seam and four-seam fastball, he topped out at 98 mph.
"Here we are -- September 11th -- he's hitting 98 a couple of times. We're not obsessed with velocity, but it's nice to see he feels that good," Riggleman said.
Castillo used his changeup for 38 of his 92 pitches, and it was effective in getting 11 whiffs and three called strikes. Of the six changeups put into play, the average exit velocity was only 88.1 mph.
"I was able to throw my changeup in the zone and they were hitting a lot of ground balls today," Castillo said via translator Julio Morillo.
In his 29 starts, Castillo is 9-12 with a 4.66 ERA. Those aren't the most sterling of numbers, in large part because the 25-year-old frequently alternates good outings with poor ones. In his last start, a 6-2 loss to the Padres on Thursday, he gave up a career-high three home runs. That followed his Sept. 1 start vs. the Cardinals, when Castillo worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts. There have been alternating good months -- a 7.85 ERA over his first six starts, followed by a 3.48 ERA in May, 6.75 in June, 2.25 in July and 5.57 in August.
But Castillo will make at least 30 starts, and his 154 2/3 innings are the most he's ever thrown in a season as a professional.
"This is a good experience for me this year," Castillo said. "The more innings that I throw, the more experience that I get. I'm focused on doing a really good job next year."
"When he gets going, it's really tough to slow him down," said right fielder Scott Schebler, who hit his 16th homer of the year in the third inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bullpen's big outs: Castillo was lifted following a one-out double by Grandal and a walk to Alex Verdugo in the seventh inning. Reliever Sal Romano entered and got a flyout to right field. Schebler fired a throw to the plate to keep Grandal from tagging up and scoring. It did put Verdugo, the tying run, into scoring position when he advanced to second base.
"That was the best throw I've ever made," Schebler said. "I don't know what got into me. But it was a good throw. You don't see many of those from me, I guess."
Romano issued Yasiel Puig's two-out walk to load the bases, but David Hernandez induced a fielder's choice groundout by pinch-hitter Justin Turner with a 2-1 slider to escape. Hernandez followed with a scoreless eighth and Raisel Iglesias earned his 26th save in the ninth.
"That's why David makes the big bucks, because he comes into situations like that and he shuts the door, especially against a good hitter like Justin Turner," Casali said. "He threw a really nice slider to him and he got a little bit out in front. That was after a 2-0 count. It was really, really nice to get back in the count and get him out. It was a huge moment in the game."
Scooter Gennett delivered a RBI single to left field that scored Schebler in the fifth inning. Gennett finished the evening 2-for-3 and is now 16-for-22 (.727) against Los Angeles this season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the second inning, Brandon Dixon saw a 1-0 cutter from starter Hyun-Jin Ryu hang over the plate and he got all of it to make it a 1-0 game. His fifth home run of the season landed several rows deep in the left-field upper deck. According to Statcast™, it traveled 436 feet. The exit velocity of 112.4 mph made it the Reds' hardest-hit homer of 2018, and their second-hardest under Statcast™ tracking (113.0 by Patrick Kivlehan in 2017).
"That's probably all I've got," Dixon said. "It was just a good pitch to hit and he left it over the middle of the plate and I put a good swing on it."
HE SAID IT
"The win is the most important part. But, yeah, you kind of have a little more of a chip on your shoulder." -- Schebler, on hitting a homer against his former club in the third inning to make it a 2-0 game. Dixon, Schebler and Jose Peraza came to the Reds from the Dodgers in the December 2015 three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox
In the final game of the series vs. the Dodgers at Great American Ball Park, Anthony DeSclafani (7-4, 4.56 ERA) will take the mound against Thomas Stripling (8-3, 2.61) on Wednesday. DeSclafani threw at least six innings in all five of his August starts, but has lasted four innings or fewer in two September turns. He gave up four earned runs and eight hits over four innings in his last outing, a no-decision in Friday's 12-6 victory over the Padres. First pitch is at 12:35 p.m ET.
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.