Greene sublime, but Reds lose without allowing a hit
PITTSBURGH -- Two Reds pitchers, namely top prospect Hunter Greene, didn't allow a hit to the Pirates on Sunday afternoon, but there was no rejoicing, no celebrating and worst of all for the team -- no winning.
Instead there was only heartbreak following a 1-0 Cincinnati loss to Pittsburgh at PNC Park to split a four-game series. It was the sixth time a pitcher/team has allowed no hits and lost. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, a no-hitter needs to be at least nine innings in order to be official.
"Bittersweet for sure. Obviously today, we were on the wrong side of history," Reds catcher Aramis Garcia said.
While throwing 118 pitches -- the most in the Majors this season -- Greene worked 7 1/3 innings with five walks and nine strikeouts.
"I felt really good about where all of my pitches were," said Greene, MLB Pipeline's No. 21 overall prospect. "I’m very confident in myself. It’s hard on the mental side not to let your mind drift to that accolade. I think you’ve got to embrace all the thoughts and emotions in that moment and just go out there and have fun. Hopefully, I’m going to have a lot more opportunities for that. I’m looking forward to that.”
As fatigue set in during the eighth inning, Greene retired the leadoff batter before issuing back-to-back walks. Manager David Bell made the pitching change and summoned reliever Art Warren, who walked first batter Ben Gamel.
Warren then induced what could have been an inning-ending double play. On Ke'Bryan Hayes' ground ball to second base, Alejo Lopez bobbled the ball briefly in his glove and could only notch one out at second base on the play as Rodolfo Castro scored the game's lone run.
“If it was slow enough, I was going to take it to the plate," Lopez said. "Obviously, the guy on third is a good runner. But it was just right in between. It’s decisions you’ve got to make in the moment, and I had to stay back and try for the double play. Obviously, the guy hitting is also a good runner."
“Maybe in a perfect world, the ball is hit a little harder and makes it a little easier for [Lopez]," Warren said. "I tried to do the best I could and get a ground ball there. It’s one of those things that didn't go our way.”
With a fastball velocity that's improved from recent starts, Greene averaged 98.9 mph, according to Statcast, and topped out at 100.8 mph. But like in his previous outing vs. Milwaukee, the slider was the pitch that slayed hitters.
The right-hander threw 65 sliders, compared to 51 fastballs and definitely more of them in the later innings. All but two strikeouts came via the breaking ball.
"I feel like it’s gotten better and better these last few starts," Greene said. "It’s the days in between of what I’m working on in catch and my bullpens. I’m proud of that, taking a lot of pride in that pitch and the changeup as well. There’s a lot of positives coming out of this."
Greene issued two-out walks in the first and fourth innings but was on an otherwise smooth roll. After a leadoff walk in the sixth inning, he retired the rest of the side in order and had 93 pitches.
"The scoreboard was right in my face, and I was trying not to make eye contact with it," Greene said.
The bullpen did not stir. Inside the dugout, coaches and teammates kept their distance from Greene.
"It got really quiet," Garcia said.
In a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning, Greene opened by striking out Daniel Vogelbach with a foul tip on a 98.6 mph fastball. In a harrowing moment, Yoshi Tsutsugo lifted a fly ball to left-center field where center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left fielder Tommy Pham converged at full speed.
Almora made a nice catch and avoided a collision into Pham to preserve the no-hitter.
“It’s a situation where everybody knows what’s going on and we all want to make plays," Almora said. "It’s completely my fault. I was very aggressive and I thought I saw him back up, but at the last second, I heard him call it. I was too committed. It worked out, I guess.”
To finish the seventh, Greene got a called third strike against Josh VanMeter with an 88 mph slider.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
"He had no-hit stuff, and it translated," Shelton said. "We didn't hit a lot of balls hard. He was just really good."
Greene was the first Reds rookie to take a no-hitter through seven innings since Travis Wood carried a perfect game into the ninth before giving up a hit at Philadelphia on July 10, 2010. Cincinnati went on to lose in 11 innings, 1-0, during that game.
The bullpen remained idle as the Reds batted in the eighth inning.
“I’m not going to lie, I felt like somebody was going to come up to me at some point," Greene said. "But I also didn’t want my mind to go there because I wanted to stay locked in and think about myself coming out of the game. I wanted to keep going out there."
Bell did not have a conversation to check in on how Greene felt.
"He actually made it pretty easy," Bell said. "I'm obviously aware of the fact he hadn't given up a hit. For me, it was easy to send him back out for the eighth because of how he got there, because of how he was pitching. He hadn't had to work extremely hard. He was in control. Everything looked ... just great rhythm.
"Looking at it now, I think it would have had to have gone really easy for him to go back out for the ninth. There was a chance he could've done it."
Against reliever David Bednar in the ninth, the Reds lineup went down in order to drop the team record to 9-26.
"He pitched his way into having an opportunity to go nine innings, get a win and a no-hitter," Bell said. "In my book, that’s what it was today. I believe the team feels that way too. It’s just so special watching a performance like that."