What we learned from the Reds' 3-game set in Pittsburgh

June 19th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- The Reds’ past six games have featured five games decided by two or fewer runs, including a pair of one-run games to end their three-game set at PNC Park.

The final of those, a 1-0 loss on Wednesday afternoon, was deflating after Hunter Greene battled heat advisory conditions to give Cincinnati 6 1/3 scoreless innings. As the Reds head back home after a 2-4 road trip in the division, here are three takeaways from the action in Pittsburgh.

Starting on the right foot
All in all, what the Reds starters showed this series should instill confidence if the group can stay healthy.

Things began with a gritty outing from Carson Spiers, who went from long relief earlier in the season to giving the Reds six solid innings after a rough first inning on Monday. Nick Lodolo brought the series even Tuesday with one of his best starts of the season.

Greene kept the trend alive. Greene’s nine strikeouts tied his season-best mark as he held Pittsburgh scoreless over 6 1/3 innings. He has now posted five or more strikeouts in each of his first 15 games of the season, marking the longest span by a Reds pitcher since at least 1901.

“I was able to watch two games prior to my game today. I think that’s really important when you’re throwing a getaway day, being able to take advantage of the two days in front of you, really paying attention to hitters’ swings,” Greene said.

Greene’s great start to the season might become even better if he lands his splitter like he did on Wednesday. He threw it only 13 times, but it induced one of the nastiest swords of the season against Bryan Reynolds.

“I’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason and Spring Training and then in bullpens this season to throw it for strikes, throw it as an expanding pitch off the zone,” Greene said. “I think it’s just being able to see my work come together in my games where it matters. It’s a good feeling.”

Stingy relief hits one crucial speed bump
The Reds’ relievers have been solid on the whole all month, with the sixth-best ERA in MLB (2.59) in June. They were in command in the entire series vs. the Pirates, including a bounceback outing for closer Alexis Díaz in Tuesday’s win, but a blemish at the worst time on Wednesday turned out to decide which team took the set.

Nick Martinez allowed only the second hit the Reds’ bullpen had afforded in the meager 5 2/3 innings it had to cover in the series. Unfortunately, it became a homer for Reynolds that landed in the bullpen in the eighth inning. But overall, manager David Bell feels good about the shape his relief unit is in.

“You hate to see it come down to one pitch, but you kind of have that feeling that that game was going to come down to one pitch or a big hit or home run,” Bell said. “And Nick’s been really good for us. I’ll put him in any spot. He just left a changeup up.”

Running out of runs
The Reds’ offense scored only three runs over the three games in Pittsburgh. It’s the second time the bats have been limited to three or fewer runs in a series, alongside a two-run showing over three games in a sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The group is also averaging fewer than three runs per game over their past 11 contests.

Wednesday’s loss was the roughest in that stretch by far. The Reds only advanced three runners into scoring position against the Pirates, and two of them came via stolen base, which has been a calling card of the team this season. Pirates starter Mitch Keller cruised through seven-plus innings on 83 pitches, but Bell said he felt it showed more about how in command the Bucs pitcher was than the offense being too aggressive.

“Keller I think executed every single pitch he threw today,” Bell said. “Obviously, it’s not going to get easier. We’re going up against tough pitching, and it’s our job to adjust to that and continue to find ways to get it done, but I love how our team is continuing to fight through this and grind, and that’s going to pay off.”