Bello delivers gutsy outing in win over Reds

September 21st, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Rookie hurler Brayan Bello has come a long way since getting knocked around in his big league debut on July 6. Not only has the 23-year-old found his footing, but he’s become a bright spot on a Boston squad that has fallen out of the national discussion with two weeks remaining in the season.

Even on a night when the Reds hit Bello hard, charging him for eight hits, the right-hander battled through five innings while allowing just one run, leading the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Bello’s outing was far from perfect, but the right-hander was able to work out of his own jams, escaping several high-leverage situations to keep Cincinnati’s lineup in check, en route to his second career victory.

“I think it all has to do with the confidence that I have right now with my pitches,” Bello said through interpreter Carlos Villoria after the game. “I feel like I can throw every pitch in every count in every situation and that’s something that I didn't have before in my first few outings in the big leagues.”

Bello began his afternoon with a nine-pitch first inning with two strikeouts. In the second, he was greeted by a leadoff single by Jake Fraley, followed by a double by Donovan Solano and a walk to Aristides Aquino to load the bases. Pitching in a situation that may have defined his outing just three months ago, Bello bore down to strike out Nick Senzel and Jose Barrero in succession, before getting Austin Romine to ground out to third, ending the threat.

“For me, my mentality was to attack, attack, attack and try to get ahead [of them],” Bello said. “I just wanted to get a ground ball double-play and I got two [strikeouts] and a ground ball to third base. I’ll take that every day.”

Bello departed in the fifth inning with his lone blemish on the night being TJ Friedl’s leadoff homer in the third, which ended Bello’s 44 1/3-inning homerless streak to begin his career, the longest such streak by a Red Sox pitcher since 1976 (Rick Jones, 52 innings).

Bello struck out five while walking two during his 84-pitch outing. His stuff looked as good as it has all season, in large part to a work-in-progress slider that he received whiffs on 43 percent of the time. He used it to go after Reds hitters in key spots throughout his outing.

“Today the pitch that was working for me was the slider,” Bello said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve been working on as well between starts, [trying] to spin the ball more and trying to get more break on that pitch. Today it was a good example of how good that pitch can be in the future for me.”

The Red Sox’s staff has helped Bello improve his slider throughout the course of the season, helping him take his game to another level. The right-hander has posted a 2.67 ERA in his last six starts with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 32 to 12.

“Obviously where we’re at, we’re pushing guys to do stuff that they probably haven't done in a while,” manager Alex Cora said. “[It’s going] to make them better.”

"He had a good, really good tight slider,” Reds manager David Bell said. “You do give him credit for making pitches with that slider. It made for some really tough at-bats.”

The former No. 5 prospect has quietly turned his rookie season around, even if the wins haven't always followed. He’s shown that he isn't afraid to go right after opposing hitters, and it’s started to catch the eyes of his teammates.

“He’s fearless,” Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez said. “He goes out there and he’s not intimidated by anyone, it seems like. He’s got good stuff and lets it eat.”