All-Star Castillo flirts with no-no vs. Brewers

July 4th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- As Reds ace flirted more seriously with a no-hitter against the Brewers on Thursday, left fielder Jesse Winker couldn’t help thinking what fans started feeling as he eyed the Great American Ball Park scoreboard.

“I kind of peeked up there in the fifth and sixth innings and I was like, ‘Oh boy, that no-no is coming,’” Winker said.

Castillo carried it into the seventh inning, but a Fourth of July no-hitter was not to be when Keston Hiura lined a one-out single. The right-hander settled for one hit allowed over 7 2/3 innings as Cincinnati held on for a 1-0 victory over the Brewers to end the series with three straight wins and back-to-back shutouts.

The Reds' pitching staff kept Milwaukee down with 23 consecutive scoreless innings. Now 3 1/2 games sit between the National League Central-leading Brewers (46-42) and last-place Reds (41-44). Cincinnati hasn’t been that close since April 11.

“I think it’s the best outing in all my career. I felt really good out there,” Castillo said via an interpreter. His career high is 8 1/3 innings.

Castillo, who on Sunday was named an NL All-Star for the first time, struck out nine and walked one while throwing 97 pitches. According to Stats Inc., only one pitcher -- Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers -- had a no-hit bid last as long on July 4, when he lost his after 6 1/3 innings in 2017. Dave Righetti of the Yankees was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter on Independence Day in 1983.

The 26-year-old Castillo also hit two batters -- Christian Yelich in the first inning and Hiura in the fourth. After Hiura was plunked, Castillo retired eight straight batters, including seven without Milwaukee sending a ball on contact out of the infield. Hiura prevented any further no-hit drama when he lined a clean single into center field.

“The fans started clapping and cheering. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ I just looked and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s the first hit,’” said Castillo, who improved to 8-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 18 starts.

Once again, Castillo had an impeccable changeup with it being the pitch that netted eight of his strikeouts. It marked the seventh game in 2019 that he notched at least six strikeouts with his changeup. Nobody else in the Majors has two outings like that, and all other Major League pitchers have combined for eight such games.

Only two hitters connected for a hard-hit ball against Castillo on the afternoon, according to Statcast. Good-hitting pitcher Brandon Woodruff scorched a 107.5 mph groundout to second base in the third inning. Yelich’s groundout to first base left the bat at 107.6 mph.

In Castillo’s three previous starts against the Brewers this season, they had his number as he was 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA.

“In the previous two starts against him, we did a good job laying off things and his command wasn’t as good in those starts,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “With Castillo, you have to pick a pitch, the fastball or the changeup, and he did a good job of keeping our hitters guessing."

Woodruff kept the game tight after a bumpy beginning of his start for the Brewers. Four of the first six Reds batters reached on hits. Winker, who collected three hits, started the rally with a leadoff double and scored from third when Yasiel Puig hit a slow roller in the grass near third base and no throw was made to the plate.

Castillo returned for the eighth, striking out Ben Gamel and inducing a groundout from Orlando Arcia. With pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar in a 2-0 count, play was halted because of heavy showers.

“I feel a little disappointed because it was a really good game. No runs, one hit, I was throwing the best game in my career. But those things I cannot control,” Castillo said.

When the game resumed, reliever David Hernandez took over and walked Aguilar. The free pass was charged to Castillo, but there were no consequences as Hernandez struck out Yasmani Grandal with a curveball to end the inning.

"He was outstanding,” Reds manager David Bell said of Castillo. “He was also close to the end of his day. It would have been nice for him to finish the inning. David, that's a tough spot, coming in with a 2-0 count. He came back and struck the next guy out, a good hitter at that."

Castillo became the fourth straight Reds starter to work into the seventh inning this week. The last pitcher who didn’t get that far was Anthony DeSclafani on Sunday against the Cubs. But DeSclafani pitched six scoreless innings. In his previous start, a 6-0 loss to the Chicago on Saturday, Castillo gave up one earned run over seven innings.

The Reds' rotation improved to second in the NL with a 3.58 ERA.

"I don't know what to say about our pitching,” Bell said. “They're doing everything they possibly can to give us a chance to win. To be able to keep this Brewers team, which we know is a good team, with a very good lineup, to limit the scoring like they did shows all the hard work and preparation and how they continue to develop as a staff.”