Greene leans on slider in best start of career
CINCINNATI -- As he took the mound for the Reds on Tuesday vs. the Brewers, top prospect Hunter Greene was coming off his worst start as a Major Leaguer last week against the very same team. Before the game, manager David Bell viewed the outing as an important moment for Greene.
“It’s a big test tonight," Bell noted. "The key to tonight is what did he learn? How is he able to adjust tonight?"
The answer proved to be: Very well, with 5 1/3 innings pitched. It was just not enough to get a win during a 5-4 Reds loss to the Brewers at Great American Ball Park. The club's Major League-worst record dropped to 6-24.
Greene was charged with two earned runs, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out six. On Thursday in Milwaukee during a 10-5 loss, meanwhile, the 22-year-old lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed eight earned runs and nine hits -- including five home runs.
"Obviously, I had to make adjustments from my last outing," Greene said. "I want that to lead into today, but that’s what the game is all about is making those adjustments and being able to bounce back. That’s the beautiful thing about the game is there is always another day. Looking at it that way puts you in a really good place."
Here are some other notable items from Greene's performance:
- According to Statcast, Greene's fastball topped out at 100.5 mph and averaged 98.4 mph, slightly up from the 98.1 mph he averaged in the previous outing.
- Of the 100 pitches he threw, Greene went much heavier than normal with his slider usage, throwing it 48 times compared to 47 for his four-seam fastball. He threw five changeups.
- The slider was the pitch Greene used to record all six of his strikeouts -- including a three-pitch strikeout of Willy Adames in the fifth inning on three consecutive sliders.
Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson normally wouldn't expect to call for more sliders than fastballs from Greene.
"I know he really wasn’t landing his breaking stuff in Milwaukee, just kind of uncompetitive," said Stephenson, who hit an RBI double in the second inning for the game's first run. "Usually when that happens, it’s tough to pitch your way around that especially if you’re not throwing your off-speed stuff for strikes. He did a great job tonight. I was proud of him."
Greene's night began on shaky footing in the first inning, with three walks that loaded the bases with two outs. But he struck out Tyrone Taylor on his 26th pitch of the inning to escape, starting a stretch that saw him retire seven of the next eight hitters he faced through the end of the third.
"For him to be able to have that ability to make those adjustments on the fly, I think he did a phenomenal job for us tonight," said designated hitter Mike Moustakas, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. "Obviously not the end result we wanted with a loss, but we fought hard. He pitched his tail off all night for us tonight. He's a young kid learning how to throw, and it's pretty cool to watch."
Greene allowed his first hit when Luis Urías led off the fourth inning by lifting an 0-1 slider to left field for a homer that made it a 1-1 game. It wasn't a bad pitch, and Urias' exit velocity was only 92.8 mph. The homer had an expected batting average of .150.
"I didn’t think he got it, and obviously he didn’t get anywhere close to [all of] it, but it's part of the game," Greene said. "For me, that’s a big win from the previous game. Being able to reset after that pitch … It was 1-1, and that’s the way you have to look at it in situations like that."
Greene had a chance to be the first Reds starter to complete six innings this season, but a one-out comebacker by Taylor off his glove was the hit that finished his night. Tony Santillan struggled and let the inherited runner score, then allowed another run of his own.
As far as Bell was concerned, Greene passed his test.
"Big step forward," Bell said. "He can take that into next time and even go deeper into the game. Really a lot of good things."
Greene called the progress from his last start "huge."
"I did a lot of contemplating at home," he said. "You never like to get too much in your head, but I’m such a competitive person and want to do well for this team and for this group of guys, and obviously, stay here. I was a little hard on myself, but I think I gave myself a little bit more of that edge heading into today."