Lodolo flirts with no-no to earn 1st win in exactly a year

April 13th, 2024

CHICAGO -- It sure didn't look like Reds starter hadn't pitched in a big league game for 343 days.

Long layoff or not -- struggling opponent or not -- an impressive Lodolo made his 2024 debut vs. the White Sox look easy on Saturday. During a 5-0 Reds win over Chicago at Guaranteed Rate Field, the left-hander struck out 10 and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

"It’s been a minute since I’ve been competing like that," Lodolo said.

Overall, Lodolo pitched 5 2/3 innings with one hit, two hit batsmen and one walk while throwing 62 strikes on 91 pitches.

“I definitely had a little more adrenaline than normal but nothing crazy," Lodolo said. "Honestly, my start in Spring Training, my first one, my adrenaline was through the roof. I was just anxious to get out there today. It felt good to be back.”

The last time Lodolo pitched for Cincinnati was on May 6, 2023, also against the White Sox. He missed the rest of last season with a stress fracture in his left tibia, and his rehab from the injury continued into Spring Training.

"Everything Nick has gone through, he just couldn’t have handled it any better," manager David Bell said. "He knew he was going to come back, but it can be a long road.

"Today was about as good as you can do, especially the first time out. You could tell all the work that he’s been doing has paid off."

On Saturday against a White Sox team with two wins this season, Lodolo had his curveball working to baffle hitters. He threw it 33 times and got 14 swings and nine misses. He often got it in on the back foot of right-handed hitters. True to form, he hit Kevin Pillar on the foot with a curveball for his first baserunner in the second inning.

To end the fourth inning after a two-out walk, Lenyn Sosa struck out swinging at a Lodolo curveball as it hit the top of his foot.

“[The curveball] definitely did its thing," Lodolo said. "I got a couple of guys with it. At the end of the day, that’s not what I’m trying to do, but it’s the nature of the pitch."

Chicago's only hit off Lodolo came when Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the sixth with a grounder up the middle. Santiago Espinal tried to corral it on the grass behind second base but had no play.

Otherwise, Lodolo encountered little trouble.

"It felt like every single pitch had a purpose. He made them pretty uncomfortable, I thought," catcher Luke Maile said. "I think he feels our energy. With him being back today, I think that he was well aware that we couldn’t wait to see him pitch again. He proved us right.”

Lodolo retired two more batters in the sixth before giving way to the bullpen. He hadn't thrown more than 80 pitches in any of his four starts between Spring Training and his rehab assignment.

"Just all-around a great start, and it did allow him to build up even more than he has so far," Bell said.

It wasn't a great offensive afternoon for the Reds, but it was enough as they collected all of their runs and hits in the second inning against White Sox ace Garrett Crochet.

With one out and the bases loaded against Crochet, Maile hit a two-run single to left field. With two outs and the bases loaded again, Spencer Steer put the game in hand with a three-run double to left field for a five-run lead.

The return of a healthy Lodolo gives the 8-6 Reds a big boost and improves their chances to challenge for the lead in the National League Central.

"I think he’s going to cover a lot of innings, no matter what," Maile said. "But with the way he can punch guys out and sort of eliminate the weird stuff that kind of sometimes happens when you’re more of a contact-based guy. It’s important to have both in your rotation and your staff, but having that guy that just wipes hitters out and makes K’s happen, obviously it’s super helpful.”

April 13 is a special day on and off the field for Lodolo. It's the birthday of his mother, Dana. It was the date when he made his Major League debut in 2022. And it was the date of his previous big league victory last year vs. the Phillies.

What's also important is how Lodolo's left leg will feel on April 14 -- and beyond -- after pitching. He was confident he's past the injury.

"By no means is the work done or anything. It’s one start," Lodolo said. "I definitely feel way more prepared than I’ve ever been."