MILWAUKEE -- The box score will show a loss for Reds starter Robert Stephenson vs. the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, and not the prettiest of pitching lines. But alas, there was some level of progress made. Just not enough to get a victory.Stephenson lasted five-plus innings during a 4-0 loss
MILWAUKEE -- The box score will show a loss for Reds starter Robert Stephenson vs. the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, and not the prettiest of pitching lines. But alas, there was some level of progress made. Just not enough to get a victory.
Stephenson lasted five-plus innings during a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee as Cincinnati dropped the rubber game of the three-game series at Miller Park. He was charged with four earned runs on nine hits and three walks (one intentional) with four strikeouts.
"I'm definitely happier with the way it went," Stephenson said. "Still not where I want to be, but it's a step in the right direction. I left some balls up and they got hit hard. I also made some good pitches that fell today."
Stephenson is 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA in his first three big league starts of 2018 since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville. In the first two starts, he issued nine walks in a combined 5 2/3 innings. Deep counts ran his pitch total up early and accelerated his exit. That wasn't the case vs. the Brewers.
Stephenson reached three-ball counts twice the entire game -- both leading to his two unintentional walks to Christian Yelich in the fourth inning and Travis Shaw in the fifth. Neither of them haunted with runs scoring.
"I think, for me, obviously getting ahead and limiting the amount of pitches that I can throw to each batter is a big thing for me being able to go deeper into the game," Stephenson said. "Obviously, I want to be able to go seven, eight innings, but like I said, a step in the right direction."
It wasn't all good, however, especially in the view of Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman.
"I felt like the game, we were in trouble so many innings that it feels like it was a 10-0 ballgame, but we were really a couple of swings away from tying the ballgame up," Riggleman said. "Robert did a good job kind of minimizing the damage. But a lot of baserunners out there."
Stephenson's first batter of the day, Yelich, crushed a 2-2 slider that sat up and over the plate for a leadoff home run to center field.
"That one, just left it right down the middle," Stephenson said.
In the fourth inning, after a Ryan Braun one-out double to left field, Stephenson issued a two-out intentional walk to Manny Pina so he could face pitcher Freddy Peralta -- who was 0-for-22 at the plate in his career. Peralta hit an offspeed pitch through the middle for his first Major League hit and RBI.
"You know, I give him credit," Stephenson said. "I gave him three that he missed the first time around. He put a good swing on it and what happens, happens."
Stephenson also caught some breaks with the help of his defense. After a Braun double in the second inning, he made a baserunning mistake on Jonathan Schoop's grounder to shortstop by straying too far from second base. Jose Peraza alertly threw to Scooter Gennett for the out. Yelich hit a leadoff double in the third inning, but was caught stealing at third base by catcher Curt Casali. In the fourth inning, Stephenson worked out of a bases-loaded jam when Lorenzo Cain was called out on strikes.
With 90 pitches through five innings, Stephenson was given a chance to begin the sixth. It started with back-to-back singles by Schoop and Pina.
"I wasn't happy with the pitches, but I didn't think, especially the first hit, was a bad pitch. The second one, he ambushed me," Stephenson said.
Both inherited runners scored on reliever Wandy Peralta when Yelich hit an RBI single and Cain added a slow chopper to second base where Gennett had no play. It went as an RBI single that scored Pina.
Like in his previous starts, Stephenson didn't establish his fastball. According to Statcast™, he threw 33 fastballs out of his 94 pitches and got 19 strikes. Meanwhile, he threw 34 sliders, 15 changeups and 12 cutters.
"That's just the way I pitch," Stephenson said. "I'm going to be a guy that throws a lot of offspeed. I thought I used my fastball a lot better today. Moving forward, obviously I do want to throw at least 50 percent fastballs, but I'm definitely big on my offspeed."
The Reds will have some decisions to make next week, as they are expected to roll back from a six-man to a five-man rotation. Riggleman has not tipped his hand about whom the club might remove. Stephenson was expected to get a longer look after his recall. Sal Romano has struggled at times, but powered through a rocky four-run first inning on Tuesday before the Reds had a comeback victory. Cincinnati has dropped 16 of Homer Bailey's 17 starts, but he pitched a quality start in Monday's loss. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey remains a waiver-trade candidate.
In his start for Milwaukee, Peralta kept the Reds' lineup quiet with three hits and two walks over his seven scoreless innings while striking out seven. Cincinnati put the leadoff batter on base against Peralta three times, but could not build a rally against him.
"Today, he really had us off balance and did a good job. We just didn't put anything together," Riggleman said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Missed opportunity: In the eighth inning against reliever Taylor Williams, the Reds mounted their best chance at scoring with a Dilson Herrera single, a walk from Preston Tucker and Billy Hamilton's free pass that loaded the bases. Williams got Peraza to fly out and then with Gennett up representing the tying run, the Brewers made a pitching change. Instead of going to Dan Jennings, who gave up Gennett's game-winning homer on Tuesday, manager Craig Counsell went with power right-hander Jeremy Jeffress. On a 1-0 fastball, Gennett flied out to left field.
"That's a tough spot to come in, obviously, with a good hitter having one of the better years in the National League," Counsell said. "That's a tough spot, but he's been so good all year that it's kind of an easy call that you have to go with him."
The Reds were shut out for the eighth time this season, tying their total from the 2017 season. It was their first time being blanked since Aug. 8 vs. the Mets. It was the third time in '18 that Milwaukee shut out the Reds (April 17-18).
When the Reds open a four-game series vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. ET, right fielder Scott Schebler is expected to be activated from the disabled list. Schebler has missed five weeks since spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder on July 14. Anthony DeSclafani, who is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts, will be opposed by another hot pitcher in lefty Cole Hamels (3-0, 0.72 ERA since his trade to Chicago).
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.