CINCINNATI -- This was a season when Sal Romano really wanted to establish himself as a Major League starting pitcher. Romano instead wound up being moved to the bullpen last month, but was given a chance to finish 2018 by starting vs. the Pirates.Romano made the most of his opportunity with
CINCINNATI -- This was a season when Sal Romano really wanted to establish himself as a Major League starting pitcher. Romano instead wound up being moved to the bullpen last month, but was given a chance to finish 2018 by starting vs. the Pirates.
Romano made the most of his opportunity with five strong innings in his first start since Aug. 21. He was not part of the outcome -- a 6-5 Reds loss to Pittsburgh in 10 innings at Great American Ball Park -- that was decided on a Jackson Stephens wild pitch that scored Pablo Reyes in the top of the 10th.
With two earned runs and three hits allowed with one walk and one strikeout with 59 pitches overall, Romano mostly cruised through his first four innings as he retired 11 of 13 batters. Through three innings, he had only 28 pitches.
"It's just one of those things where I wanted to attack the strike zone," Romano said. "I knew guys were going to be aggressive today. I figured they wouldn't have many strikeouts. I just wanted to get early contact. Guys made the plays behind me."
The Reds rotation for 2019 appears wide open for multiple spots. Romano has by no means given up on the idea that he can still be a successful starter.
"It was definitely a good taste in my mouth going into the offseason knowing that I am able to start still," he said. "I still feel like in my heart that I can start in this league. Obviously pitching in the bullpen the last month, if I can do both that's something maybe I can do next year to help both ways."
For most of the game, Romano stuck with the combination of fastballs and sliders.
"I wanted to stay with just what I had been doing out of the bullpen. It was pretty successful," he said.
The Reds had a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning when Pittsburgh used a leadoff walk in the fifth by Colin Moran to rally. After Jose Osuna's double, Kevin Kramer's sacrifice fly scored Moran. Romano bounced a 0-2 curveball to Jungho Kang for a wild pitch that scored a second run.
"I got a little sloppy the fifth inning. Obviously leadoff walks will kill you," said Romano, who finished with a 5.31 ERA in 39 games, including 25 starts. "Other than that, it was definitely a good way to end the year for me, for sure."
Cincinnati's season concluded with a 67-95 record and fifth-place finish in the National League Central -- the fourth straight season of at least 94 losses and placement at the bottom of the division. It did not end in pretty fashion.
In the top of the 10th inning, with several regulars out of the game, Reyes reached on a one-out double to right-center field but advanced to third base on center fielder Gabriel Guerrero's error. After a two-out intentional walk to Josh Bell, Stephens bounced a ball in the dirt to Elias Diaz that got past catcher Tim Federowicz and allowed Reyes to come home.
"You want to win each game, but we really appreciate the fans' response today," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We got out playing with some energy, we were doing some good things. Really liked the way our fans acknowledged our players who came off. The rest of the game, it was a battle then. They got back into it and both clubs were getting after it the best they could."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hamilton generates a run:Billy Hamilton created Cincinnati's first run in the first inning after a one-out hit that got by second baseman Kramer. Hamilton hustled for a double, stole third base and scored when catcher Diaz's throw went into left field. He knew Riggleman would lift him from the game after two at-bats.
"It was definitely fun, especially when you know you only have a certain amount of at-bats before the game," Hamilton said. "You get the double on your first one, you're like, 'OK, now I can relax a little bit,' then just go with the game. It kind of felt like Spring Training, you know you're going to get this many at-bats then you're coming out. We were like, 'We've got two at-bats, we have to do something with it.'"
Jose Peraza finished the season 0-for-4 and remained at 182 hits, which fell shy of Barry Larkin's 185 -- the single-season club record for most by a shortstop. Peraza still was the first shortstop to lead Cincinnati in hits for a season since Felipe Lopez had 169 hits in 2005.
HE SAID IT
"He's a player's manager. He's always going to take care of us. It was a special moment for me to say goodbye to the fans and give the jersey to the kids. They need it more than I do. My season is over with. It's just great to be a part of that. It gave me chills when I gave it to them walking off the field. It was great." -- Hamilton, on Riggleman removing him and Joey Votto from the game before the top of the fourth inning
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.