On a blustery Friday afternoon in Chicago, Reds rookie starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez learned a harsh lesson about the winds at Wrigley Field when they are blowing in. Indeed, those types of breezes often help pitchers, but not always.
In his Major League debut, Gutierrez was on the hook for a 1-0 Reds loss to the Cubs in the three-game series opener on David Bote's fifth-inning solo home run.
"It's Major League Baseball, it's the best league in the world," Gutierrez said via translator Jorge Merlos. "I really wanted to go out there and give all my best in my performance and really do a good job out there to get a win, but unfortunately we didn't get the win today."
While the final outcome wasn't exactly fun, the right-hander was impressive throughout his outing.
“Outstanding. He did exactly what we’ve seen of him a lot," Reds manager David Bell said. "On a day when the wind was blowing in here, he was very aggressive. He attacked, threw strikes, really good life on his fastball, really pitched and heavily relied on his fastball but also showed good breaking balls -- a good curveball, a good slider. Seemed totally unfazed by being here, but I know it was very meaningful for him. He handled it extremely well.”
Gutierrez gave up one earned run and two hits over five innings with two walks and three strikeouts while throwing 67 pitches.
"I'm really not upset with the results today, they were really good," Gutierrez said. "I was starting to get messages from friends and family that they were really supporting me. Those messages really brought me to think, 'Wow, I did a really good job.' I didn't know if I should cry or smile or laugh at the messages. I was really happy with my performance today."
While Gutierrez pitched, his wife, son and mother watched the game from their seats. He admitted to feeling some nerves early on. He learned on Tuesday that he would be called up from Triple-A Louisville to make the start to fill in for the injured Wade Miley.
"I think in the first inning I was shaking a little bit there, especially the first batter," Gutierrez said. "Once I got through that inning, I just breathed a little bit better. Once I got into the dugout, everyone was there and I was just able to relax a little bit more. When [I was] in the bullpen, the pitching coaches told me, 'Just take your time, just breathe a little bit when you're out there.' That helped today."
During the Cincinnati half of the third inning, Tucker Barnhart attacked a pitch from Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay to hit a drive with a 102.6 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast. The wind held up the ball and it bounced inside the right-field line and up into the seats for a two-out ground-rule double.
"I know the wind was blowing in, hard, but there was no way that wasn’t leaving the ballpark," Bell said. "I thought it was low enough and he just absolutely crushed it."
Tyler Stephenson, who was on first base with a walk, would have scored easily had the ball not gone out of play.
"I was pretty confident that it wasn’t going to go out of the park because of the wind today," Barnhart said. "I hit it at the bullpen in right-center and I thought it was going to blow foul down the right-field line. When it didn’t, I was happy. Really, the most confusing thing about it is how it got up over the wall somehow. That was really weird. Just kind of par for the day as far as the conditions are concerned. Not only was it not a home run, it wasn’t an RBI. But I was able to put a good swing on it and give us a chance."
The next batter, Kyle Farmer, left both runners stranded with a flyout to right field to end the top of the third inning. Cincinnati had seven of the game's 10 hits, but the club went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 on base.
Two innings later in the bottom of the fifth, Bote muscled a 2-0 Gutierrez fastball at 110.3 mph to left field. Bote needed every bit of might on his swing, as the ball landed in the basket atop the wall for a home run -- the only run scored.
"No doubt. He killed that ball," Barnhart said. "If you’re behind the plate or if you’re Guti, you’d like to take your chances when the only thing you give up is a solo homer. We just couldn’t get anything started today, it’s fine."