Reds find no answer for Giants’ power

Position players Blandino, Schrock toss 2 innings to save taxed 'pen

May 20th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Little did infielder Max Schrock know when he was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Thursday, he would end up helping to preserve the better arms of the Reds' bullpen.

For the first time since 1902, the Reds needed more than one position player to pitch in a game. Alex Blandino, who started at first base, pitched 1 1/3 innings. The final two outs came via Schrock. In the span of an hour after his arrival to the team, near the end of a 19-4 rout of a loss to the Giants, he pinch-hit in the seventh inning, replaced Blandino at first base in the top of the eighth and pitched in the ninth.

"It was a long day, but I’m here and that’s all that matters," said Schrock, who pitched once for the Cardinals last season. Thursday marked Blandino’s third time pitching this season for Cincinnati.

Whether or not the Reds could avoid a four-game series sweep to the Giants was settled early. San Francisco dropped a nine-run rally in the third inning on them -- including a grand slam by Steven Duggar.

Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle lasted only two-plus innings and gave up seven earned runs and seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts. It was a 1-0 deficit before each of his six batters reached safely during the top of the third inning.

"Losing sucks and then losing like that is even worse," Mahle said. "Especially a long game like that where they scored a ton of runs and you know you kind of started that rally. It’s not fun."

The front end of the Cincinnati bullpen wore most of the remaining damage. Michael Feliz, Ryan Hendrix, Heath Hembree and Carson Fulmer combined for 11 earned runs allowed over five innings.

Reds manager David Bell did not have to use Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett or Sean Doolittle in the loss.

But through this turn in the rotation, no Reds starter has pitched more than five innings since Mahle on Saturday at Colorado. Jeff Hoffman, who is scheduled to start in the three-game series opener vs. the Brewers on Friday, hasn't completed more than four innings in any of his last four starts since April 22.

“Believe it or not, with Blandy and Max stepping up right there, going into tomorrow we’re somehow in pretty decent shape," Bell said. "We’ll maybe take a closer look at that, but it could be a lot worse."

If the Reds had to look to Triple-A for fresh arms that are currently on the 40-man roster, they could recall José De León. A fresh face could be Ashton Goudeau, a recent waiver claim from Colorado, who is scheduled to start for Louisville on Saturday.

It was a 4-0 game when Feliz replaced Mahle with the bases loaded and no outs. Feliz's first batter, Duggar, launched a full-count pitch to center field -- where it clanked off the batter's eye below the riverboat deck to make it an 8-0 game.

Cincinnati's third pitcher of the third inning, Hendrix, could not stop the onslaught. With two outs, his first batter, Darin Ruf, added a two-run homer to open a 10-0 advantage for the Giants.

San Francisco added four more runs in the fifth inning and four in the seventh. Brandon Crawford was the biggest run producer with six RBIs in the game, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Hembree.

"It’s not fun to have to be in that situation," Bell said. "But they handled it really well. A lot of our relievers have been in this situation before. They understand, and they get it. They were very professional."

The first reliever to not give up any earned runs was Blandino, who threw several knuckleballs but did strike out Curt Casali in the eighth inning with a 90 mph fastball. A run crossed in the ninth inning when Evan Longoria's fly ball near the right-field line was dropped by Mark Payton. Schrock, who was throwing between 57-61 mph, retired both of his batters.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time Cincinnati used at least two position players to pitch was Oct. 4, 1902, against Pittsburgh in an 11-2 loss.

Before being swept by the Giants, the Reds had a six-series unbeaten streak since a seven-game losing streak ended on April 26.

"The good thing is it’s one game. We clearly got beat today, and it’s one game. That’s how we approach it," Bell said. "We ran into a pretty good team. I thought we were playing well coming into it. We just have to bounce back. Persistence and just staying after it is really what it’s all about. That’s what we’re up against right now."