CINCINNATI -- Of the career-high 218 strikeouts that Reds ace Luis Castillo has recorded this season, a Major League-leading 155 have come via his lethal changeup. The pitcher with the second-highest total has less than half of that amount.
But during the Reds’ 8-1 loss to the Mets at Great American Ball Park on Friday night, a Castillo changeup was launched for a home run by Jeff McNeil to break up what was a scoreless game in the sixth inning of a tight duel with Mets ace Jacob deGrom. In the seventh, Castillo gave up a two-run homer to Amed Rosario on a slider.
“I think they were really good pitches. I give the credit to the hitters. I think they were quality pitches,” Castillo said through translator Julio Morillo.
But against deGrom, that meant curtains for Cincinnati as the 2018 National League Cy Young Award winner breezed through seven scoreless innings with four hits, no walks and nine strikeouts. Castillo also threw seven innings, giving up just three earned runs on three hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts.
“The excitement goes up and the adrenaline goes up because you have to pitch a really good game to keep yourself and your team in the game,” Castillo said of facing deGrom. “He’s a really good pitcher, a Cy Young winner. That makes me just go out there and give 100 percent of my abilities to pitch as well as I can.”
Until the homers, Castillo proved up for the challenge against deGrom, an NL Cy Young Award contender once again.
Including a five-pitch first inning, Castillo retired 12 of his first 14 batters while surrendering only one hit. There was one out in the sixth when his 1-0 changeup to McNeil was breaking down and in. But McNeil was able to get it and lifted it high in the air for a home run inside the foul pole in right field. According to Statcast, it had a 38 degree launch angle and only a .030 expected batting average.
"He got me [in] my first two at-bats,” McNeil said. “He had a good fastball today. His changeup is his main pitch. That's his go-to. I got him 1-0, [when] he threw me an inside fastball. I was ready for that changeup, I was kind of sitting on it. I was lucky enough to put a good swing on it and keep it fair."
Castillo retired the next four in a row, including three strikeouts, and he was one strike away from a 1-2-3 seventh inning. But J.D. Davis turned a 2-2 count into a walk and sent up Rosario, who lifted a 2-0 slider to center field for a two-run homer.
“I know he’d like to have those two pitches back. But still, overall, another good start,” Reds manager David Bell said.
It was only the fifth time in 31 starts this season that Castillo gave up multiple home runs in a game. Of the 22 homers he’s allowed overall, seven came on his four-seam fastball, six on his slider, five on his changeup and four on his two-seam fastball.
There is one start remaining in Castillo’s 2019 campaign. He is 15-7 with a 3.25 ERA over a career-high 185 2/3 innings.
“I feel healthy, which is really important,” Castillo said. “I’m hoping, with God, I can finish the season healthy and good.”
Suárez trailing by two homers
Eugenio Suárez’s efforts to overtake Pete Alonso for the Major League lead in home runs got a little tougher on Friday night at Great American Ball Park. Suárez came up empty while Alonso hit his 50th of the season.
Suárez was 1-for-4 but remained at 48 homers for 2019.
Against Reds reliever Sal Romano in the eighth inning, Alonso tattooed a 2-2 pitch to the smokestacks in right-center field for a 437-foot, two-run homer that made it a 5-0 game.
Suárez had a chance to respond to Alonso’s homer in the eighth after deGrom exited. The third reliever of the inning, Edwin Díaz, entered with two runners on and two outs. But Suárez struck out to end the threat.