Baserunning gaffes, 'sluggish' Greene spell trouble for Reds

May 9th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Poor baserunning and a "sluggish" starting pitcher.

This was part of the recipe that doomed the Reds to their eighth consecutive defeat in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati hadn't been swept in a homestand of at least six games since June 17-23, 2022.

In the sixth inning as the Reds trailed, 3-1, Elly De La Cruz stole second base with Spencer Steer batting. As pitcher Slade Cecconi set for the next pitch, De La Cruz broke for third base. Cecconi held the ball an extra moment and threw to third base to get De La Cruz in a rundown before he was tagged out.

“In this ballpark, outs are at a premium," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. "I get the same feeling here that I do at Colorado, just because things can change in a hurry. So that was a huge out. We talk about that, we rehearsed it in Spring Training over and over and over again."

Although Steer walked and Jake Fraley notched a single after the running gaffe, the Reds came up empty in the inning. De La Cruz declined to speak to reporters after the game.

“Right there, he did have more time, but we’ve also seen him get to third with no outs and lead to a run," Reds manager David Bell said. "Ideally, you want to be more patient. They did a nice job and made a nice play to cut it down.”

Trailing by a run, the Reds had a chance to even the game in the bottom of the eighth. After Mike Ford hit a one-out single, Stuart Fairchild was summoned to pinch-run. As Jeimer Candelario batted, Fairchild broke to steal second base and slid into the bag head first as Candelario flied out.

However, shortstop Kevin Newman faked out Fairchild by pretending to catch a throw and applying a tag. By the time Fairchild realized what happened, center fielder Corbin Carroll threw to first base for the inning-ending double play.

"I think [with] the crowd and people yelling, 'Back, back, back,' he was definitely confused for a second, but just long enough for us to get him at first," Newman said. "It has worked before. The last time was probably in the Minor Leagues."

During the fourth inning as the Reds trailed, 1-0, De La Cruz snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a single. As Steer batted, Cecconi made the maximum two pickoff throws to first base. De La Cruz went to swipe second base, but Steer flied out to center field, which forced De La Cruz to return to first base.

The same scenario followed with Fraley in a 1-0 count. After two pickoff throws, Fraley fouled off a pitch with De La Cruz running and making a headfirst slide into second base. On the next pitch as De La Cruz ran again, Fraley popped out to third base to end the inning.

If Reds hitters weren't swinging away there, De La Cruz would likely have been in scoring position to change the situation.

“In typical situations, yes. At the same time, you don’t want to get into a hole as a hitter," Bell countered. "If we’re constantly taking pitches to let our guys steal bases, that’s not going to work for us. There’s certain cases where [it] makes sense, but not right there.”

In a no-decision, Hunter Greene, who entered the day on a 14 2/3-inning scoreless streak, was charged with three earned runs and four hits with five walks and six strikeouts over five-plus innings. It was noticeable that Greene had lower velocity on all of his pitches, namely his four-seam fastball.

Greene's fastball averaged 95.4 mph according to Statcast, well below his season average of 98 mph. It picked up in his later innings but was often sitting around 93-94 mph early on.

“It was a sluggish day from when I got to the field. I was just grinding from the first pitch, trying to make the most of it and still go out there and compete and give the team a chance," Greene said.

Greene did do that, especially by relying more on his offspeed pitches. It was important for him to try and pitch through not feeling his best. He admitted to using smelling salts to get an edge.

“I was trying to wake up. I haven't done smelly salts in, I don’t know how long. I popped a couple of those things today," Greene said. “I was dipping my hand in ice and trying to get myself going. That [the salts] was one of the things I decided to indulge in.”