Lodolo's 5-game win streak shows what he can do at full health

June 19th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- In the midst of a strong June for the Reds as a whole, few on the team have had stronger results than .

Lodolo continued that dominance to earn his fifth straight win in a 2-1 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday night. The lefty covered seven innings efficiently, allowing only one run on a homer by Ke’Bryan Hayes across four hits while walking no batters. His eight strikeouts mark his most since April 29, when he fanned a season-high 11 against the Padres.

Just as important as the results on paper, the stretch is reminding fans what Lodolo can do when he gets an extended run of starts at full health.

Lodolo barely got to settle into the 2023 season before complications with a low back strain and left calf tendinosis caused him to miss almost the entire season. He began ‘24 on the injured list again with left calf tenosynovitis, but it was a short stay. Unfortunately, he was set back again in May by a left groin strain.

At full strength since returning from his most recent ailment, Lodolo has not dropped a decision, producing a 2.08 ERA over his five-win stretch (30 1/3 innings).

“Especially with the way last year went, I’m really just five days at a time,” Lodolo said. “I feel like if you start looking ahead, you don’t know. But I’ve just got to stay present and do it again in five days, because what I did today, in five days it doesn’t really matter.”

Lodolo credited landing his slider -- which Statcast classifies as a curveball, albeit with strong horizontal movement -- early for strikes as a huge key to his success on Tuesday night, and that pitch had opposing manager Derek Shelton raving about Lodolo’s performance.

“This guy’s one of the best left-handers in the game,” Shelton said. “The ability to throw the slider back foot to right-handers and then throw the fastball at 94 to 95 [mph], often to the inner lane of the plate -- there’s not too many guys in the game that can do that. That slider is elite.”

The breaking ball led to eight of the 18 swings and misses Lodolo induced on Tuesday, which mark his second-most drawn in a start this season after his 22 in that April 29 start.

Santiago Espinal’s two-run homer in the fifth was enough to provide Lodolo the edge, as Fernando Cruz and Alexis Díaz held off the Pirates for the final two innings.

But what stood out to Lodolo and Reds manager David Bell as keys to the game were huge plays made by the defense. One such play affected Lodolo’s start, when Spencer Steer seemed to rob a home run from Michael A. Taylor just by the left-field foul pole in the fifth inning.

“I mean, it was probably what changed the game, honestly. Steer catches that ball,” Lodolo said. “It was phenomenal.”

Once Lodolo exited, Cruz entered and allowed a one-out walk to Andrew McCutchen. Bryan Reynolds, who has squared up balls all series so far, drove a 105.6 mph liner to center field over the head of Stuart Fairchild. However, Fairchild made a great catch on the run, jumping just enough to corral the ball and send it to Elly De La Cruz, who fired to first to double up McCutchen, who had taken off for third.

“I wasn’t out there, but on TV I thought for sure that ball was off the wall, and he made a great play,” Lodolo said. “It takes everybody.”

But to win a low-scoring game like Tuesday night, it helps a ton for a team effort to be anchored by a performance on the mound like Lodolo’s. More and more, the Reds are coming to expect these kinds of outings as the norm.

“We knew this going in: If he can stay healthy, that’s going to be the key. He’s so talented,” Bell said. “I’m just so happy for Nick to be out there competing. He hasn’t been able to do that for an extended period of time yet, and he’s going to.”