CINCINNATI -- Although the final score showed an 8-3 Reds loss to the Dodgers on Sunday, starting pitcher Tanner Roark still felt very much alive in the game after completing the top of the fifth inning with two strikeouts. However, manager David Bell chose to lift Roark for pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin as Cincinnati trailed, 2-0.
Bell discussed the decision with Roark, who still wasn’t pleased.
"No, I didn't want to come out," Roark said. "They had a different plan. Sometimes, everybody's not happy all the time. On to the next one.”
Roark gave up two earned runs, two hits and three walks over five innings while striking out seven.
The problem before Bell was that the Reds' lineup could get nothing going against Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who extended his scoreless streak to 31 innings while allowing five hits over seven innings. It lowered his ERA to a Major League-best 1.52.
Bell explained the back-and-forth he had with Roark, who threw 87 pitches.
“It was, ‘Hey, I trust you. I know you can you can go back for another inning, but this is all about trying to come back and get in this game. We can’t give up any more outs,’” Bell said. “Then he brought up a good point that he swings the bat well. I go, ‘You know what, that’s a good point. I factored that in, and you’re right that makes it even tougher. But we have Phillip Ervin to try to get on base before the top of our lineup.’ That’s all it was about.”
Bell didn’t mind that Roark disliked the choice of lifting him while he could have still pitched.
“I want that. I like that about him,” Bell said. “It's good that we were able to talk, talk in the dugout, and explain it. I never want him to like it or accept it. But I do want to give him my thought process there, and it felt like the right move.”
Walks burned Roark twice and led to runs. Corey Seager drew a one-out walk in the second inning and scored on an Alex Verdugo double to center field.
In the top of the third inning after Joc Pederson walked, Max Muncy’s single put runners on the corners with one out. Justin Turner sharply grounded to second base, where Jose Peraza booted the ball for an error as Pederson scored.
“There were two pitches I felt like I didn't locate well, and they got hit and they scored runs,” Roark said.
Cincinnati’s bullpen entered the day with an NL-best 3.10 ERA this season, but it did not do the job well on Sunday. After Michael Lorenzen gave a leadoff single in the seventh and got two strikeouts, lefty Wandy Peralta’s first pitch of the day to Cody Bellinger was lifted for a two-run homer to center field. There were two outs in the eighth when Russell Martin went deep to center field for a solo homer, also against Peralta. Robert Stephenson walked the bases loaded in the ninth, which led to three runs and made the back-to-back homers by Peraza and Derek Dietrich with two outs in the bottom of the ninth anticlimatic.
Shorter starts have been a trend in baseball the past couple of seasons with analytical data detailing that many starters begin to struggle when facing an opposing lineup for the third or fourth time. Only 12 teams have gotten a complete-game start in 2019, and the Phillies are the only team with two complete games.
The longest start by a Reds rotation member is Luis Castillo, who has completed seven innings three times. Roark’s season high is 6 2/3 innings and 113 pitches vs. the Giants during a 9-2 victory on May 4. Opponents are batting .301 against him the first time through the order, .219 the second time and back up to .303 the third time.
“I think that awareness helps you look for signs,” Bell said. “You start looking at parts of the order that you want somebody ready for if there’s signs that are showing that they are not as effective. But I want them to make it through the third time. An example yesterday was Tyler [Mahle]. It’s something you’re aware of, and then he kept showing us it was that kind of day for him where it didn’t matter what history says. He’s going to be able to get it done. We’re also up in that game.”
Roark wasn’t sure what to make of the trend of how teams are using quicker hooks of their starting pitchers
"I'm a pitcher who throws as many pitches as they allow me to throw,” he said. “Their thinking is their thinking, and my thinking is to stay in there as long as you can. I don't have the answer to that question."