CINCINNATI -- After back-to-back subpar starts, Reds ace Luis Castillo righted himself again on the mound with a strong performance on Saturday vs. the Cubs. Unfortunately for him, little else was going right around Castillo during a 6-0 loss at Great American Ball Park.
Castillo gave up one earned run and three hits in his first seven-inning start since May 5. But after he struck out four of his first five batters -- all on changeups -- one of the hits allowed proved decisive. With two outs in the second inning, Jason Heyward attacked a first-pitch slider for a homer to right field and a 1-0 Cubs lead.
“I was trying to go backdoor with the slider. He put a good swing on it and hit a homer,” Castillo said via interpreter Julio Morillo.
From there, Castillo kept the Cubs off the scoreboard and finished with three walks and six strikeouts. He put the leadoff runner on three times, but escaped cleanly with the benefit of two double plays -- including one with the bases loaded to end the top of the fifth inning.
“A lot of big pitches. He pitched well,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Even though runners were on, he came up with big pitches, and good defensive plays and double plays and made pitches when he had to. He was back on track today.”
Over 17 starts this season, Castillo is 7-3 with a 2.47 ERA and a good bet to be named an NL All-Star on Sunday when rosters are announced. But in his previous two starts, he labored with command issues and walked 11 batters -- including a career-high six on June 17 vs. the Astros. Last Saturday, he was knocked out by the Brewers following 3 2/3 innings and 96 pitches, having allowed six runs (four earned), five hits and five walks.
With pitching coach Derek Johnson, Castillo corrected course between starts.
“The slider was working really good today too,” Castillo said. “I was mixing it with my other pitches. I think it made that pitch play better. Everything worked out well for me.”
Except that Jose Quintana was even better over six innings, with six hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Quintana had been winless in his previous nine starts. The Reds were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
The game went off the rails for the Reds in the eighth inning when David Hernandez faced three batters and allowed two hits. Lefty Zach Duke was brought in to face lefty-hitting Anthony Rizzo and walked him on four pitches to load the bases. Jared Hughes took over and his 0-1 pitch to Javier Baez was lifted to the opposite way for a grand slam to right field as a Cubs-centric crowd of 41,360 fans roared with approval.
Things became heated with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Cubs reliever Pedro Strop hit Yasiel Puig in the left leg with a 3-0 fastball. An enraged Puig started going after Strop and had to be held back with Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and Rizzo running interference to protect their pitcher.
The benches and bullpens cleared, but order was restored without punches or ejections.