During the National League Wild Card Series against the Braves, the Reds' pitching was as superb as advertised. But Cincinnati's offense unfortunately endured a historically anemic performance.
Atlanta took a 5-0 victory in Game 2 on Thursday afternoon at Truist Park to complete the two-game sweep.
"It's a bad feeling," Reds manager David Bell said. "There's no real words to make you feel better when you compete all year, you battle, you work year-round, you put everything you have into it, and you lose."
Meanwhile, the Braves also helped give the Reds some dubious records:
• It was the first time in Major League history a team was eliminated from a playoff series without scoring a run, excluding one-game series.
• Cincinnati's 22 scoreless innings set a record for the longest opening streak in postseason history. It broke a 99-year-old mark held by the 1921 New York Giants, who began with 20 scoreless innings. However, the Giants went on to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.
As for the Reds? They will go home frustrated after their first playoff berth in seven years.
"I’m very sad right now," third baseman Eugenio Suárez said. "I never thought about losing two games here in Atlanta. I’ve been trusting my team for a long time. We did a really good job to make the playoffs. I thought we were going to have a better series here in Atlanta. But it is what it is. I think yesterday, we lost a lot of opportunities to score runs, and today, the same thing."
Three of the hits Castillo gave up were to Ronald Acuña Jr., including his pivotal two-out RBI double to left field to open the scoring in the fifth inning. Acuña hit a 2-2 Castillo slider, called by catcher Tucker Barnhart. Castillo shook off the pitch at first, but he agreed when Barnhart called for it again.
"I felt like it was the right pitch. We had talked about it a lot before the game. Obviously, I felt like that one was on me," Barnhart said. "I felt like, if executed, we might get a wavy type or an expanded out-of-the-zone swing."
Braves starter Ian Anderson was even better than Castillo during his own playoff debut, with six scoreless innings, two hits, two walks and nine strikeouts.
Unlike Game 1, when they were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, the Reds didn't have a smorgasbord of opportunities against Atlanta on Thursday. Anderson walked both of his batters in the top of a 34-pitch second inning, including Freddy Galvis to load the bases with two outs. But Barnhart grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
Anderson retired the next seven Reds in a row, as well as 13 of his final 14 batters. Three Braves relievers combined for three perfect innings to complete the back-to-back shutouts.
"Through  innings, they scored two runs and we scored zero. Runs were at a premium," first baseman Joey Votto said. "We most certainly did not score enough runs to be competitive over the series. It’s a short series, of course. We weren’t good enough offensively.”
The Reds’ offense ranked last in the Major Leagues with a .212 batting average during the regular season, making them one of three clubs to reach the postseason while finishing at the bottom in hitting.
As the zeros started accumulating again on Thursday, concern grew inside the Reds’ dugout.
"I think anybody would be lying if they said the alternative," Barnhart said. "You can see how the game went yesterday. You can see how the game was going today. It’s just nothing positive really seemed to happen. If anything did, they made a good pitch or we hit a ball right to somebody."
Cincinnati’s lineup relied heavily all season on the home run, with a record 61.1 percent of its runs scoring that way. With a .245 average on balls in play (BABIP), the Reds ranked last in MLB.
"What I'm thinking about right now is how I've never had a group of hitters and players that worked and did everything in their power to find a way to break through," Bell said. "That's not an excuse; it's just a fact. Do we need to continue making adjustments and look at everything? That goes without saying. You're always looking to do that."
The Braves added a pair of two-run home runs by Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall in the bottom of the eighth inning against Raisel Iglesias to put the Reds away. The only homer Iglesias gave up during the regular season was vs. Detroit on Opening Day.
"The starters were just so excellent. Other than that late-inning blip -- I don’t even want to speak on that, because our bullpen was very good also," Votto said. "I don’t mean to minimize the runs that were scored in the eighth inning. They were clear. But I thought our guys were so good. Luis was excellent again. We just didn’t do enough on our side."
Cincinnati was not expected to make it to the playoffs when it was mired with a 20-26 record on Sept. 12. The club got hot and went 11-3 down the stretch to clinch its first postseason berth since 2013.
"When we take a step back and reflect on the season, there's no doubt that moving forward, knowing that feeling and knowing what it takes, the amount of effort and teamwork and care, tasting that success is going to go a long way moving forward," Bell said. "It's difficult to have a perspective right now, but I think once we get some time, we'll look back and know that that's going to be helpful moving forward."