Reds rookies pave the way in win over Brewers

September 25th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- During a season with over 90 losses, there aren't a lot of superlatives the Reds can lean on in 2022. But games like Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Brewers provide glimpses into why the rebuilding club feels good about its future.

It was three rookies who played the biggest roles in the victory that avoided a four-game series sweep:

 started and continued his fine stretch run with six innings and one run allowed in a no-decision.
 hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Alexis Díaz struck out the side in the top of the ninth inning for his ninth save.

"Just happy I could find a way to help this team win. It’s been a tough little stretch here, so it felt really good," said Steer, the Reds' No. 7 prospect acquired from the Twins in the Aug. 2 Tyler Mahle trade.

In his six innings and 99 pitches, Lodolo gave up one earned run and four hits -- all coming in the second inning -- with one walk and six strikeouts. The left-hander didn't feel great about his fastball or curveball but broke out a changeup that he has rarely used and threw it 10 times.

"I felt like early on they were really on my heater," Lodolo said. "I wasn’t locating it great, but it wasn’t terrible. I actually had to go to the changeup today. It was good. I’ve been working on it. I was happy it showed up."

The lone blemish on Lodolo's day came when Hunter Renfroe led off the top of the second by hitting a first-pitch fastball for a homer to right-center field. It was his third homer in two days and eighth this season at Great American Ball Park.

Two more hits put Brewers runners on second and third base with one out. But Lodolo struck out Victor Caratini with a curveball and escaped when Tyrone Taylor's grounder hit Keston Hiura as he ran to third base for the final out.

"As soon as it was hit, I put my head down because it looked like a hit," Reds manager David Bell said. "Sometimes no matter what you do, you just can't get out of the way of it. And that was a big break for us."

Lodolo seemed re-energized by the good fortune and retired 12 of his last 13 batters. His best inning came in the sixth as he struck out the side of Willy Adames, Christian Yelich and Renfroe -- the toughest part of the Milwaukee lineup -- all with his curveball.

"It hasn’t been my sharpest, honestly, I’ve been battling a little bit," Lodolo said. "I was happy I got it in the zone today and it was effective when it needed to be."

Lodolo, 24, is 1-3 with a 2.84 ERA over his last eight starts while the Reds have a 3-5 record in those games.

"He’s a special arm. Every time I’ve seen him throw, he’s just dominated lineups," Steer said. "He’s always pounding the zone and he’s got wipeout stuff."

Against Brewers reliever Matt Bush in a 1-1 game, Steer drove a 1-2 fastball to center field for the homer that provided the winning run. 

"I usually don’t hit many home runs to center. I was just running and hoping," Steer said.

It was Steer's second homer but his first since his Major League debut on Sept. 2, when he reached safely four times. There have been some struggles since, and he's batting .227 with a .693 OPS in 20 games overall. 

"Those don't come around very often, no matter how good a player," Bell said. "Spencer is going to be in that situation, he's going to come through again. But having that experience right there to directly win a game for us, the best part I think is the excitement from your teammates and what it does for our team. But just a great experience to have that kind of success off a really good pitcher and to contribute to winning the game when we really needed it."

Now with the one-run lead, it became a save situation for Díaz. The right-hander did what Lodolo achieved back in the sixth, striking out Adames, Yelich and Renfroe to end the game. 

"It's the Brewers and they are fighting for a playoff spot," Bell said. "To start out a ninth inning in that situation, and really just control it the way he did was really impressive."