By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds faced pitchers from all over the western hemisphere as the San Diego Padres used Wednesday as a bullpen game.
The Padres ran out pitchers from North Dakota, Washington, Alabama, the Dominican Republic and Ohio. None was much effective as the Reds put together a 4-2 victory.
San Diego used the new-fangled ‘Opener,’ starting North Dakota’s Matt Strahm for two innings. He was followed by Washington’s Eric Yardley, Alabama’s Trey Wingenter, the Dominican Republic’s Luis Perdomo and Ohio’s Craig Stammen.
The Reds scored four early runs to give starter Luis Castillo runs with which to work. And he made them work.
After the worst start of his career in his previous assignment, eight runs to the St. Louis Cardinals, Castillo held the Padres to one run and five hits over six innings, leaving after throwing 100 pitches.
The result was Castillo’s 12th victory as the Reds took two of three from the Padres before embarking on a three-city trip to Pittsburgh, Miami and St. Louis.
He wasn’t at his best, just four strikeouts. But he didn’t walk a batter and coaxed 11 ground balls.
“There are adjustments you make in the bullpen, which I did by working hard,” said Castillo during his post-game session with the media. “It was important that I bounce back, like I did after my start against the Cardinals.”
Said manager David Bell, “Maybe it was not the best start he ever had all year, but he has the weapons. He has so much confidence, that even when he is not at his very, very best, he is still very good.
“This is what we’ve come to expect from him because he is so good,” Bell added. “Even when he is not at his best, he is still strong. That’s what it takes because nobody is ever at their absolute best.”
Castillo retired the first six before encountering his only difficulty, which resulted in a run.
Ty France opened the third with a single, was bunted to second on Greg Garcia’s double to right center for a 1-0 Padres lead.
Over his last three innings, Castillo muzzled the Padres on three harmless singles.
Lucas Sims replaced Castillo for the seventh and the first batter he faced, Francisco Mejia, lined one into the right field bleachers for a home run and it was 4-2.
Cincinnati didn’t score against starter Strahm during his two innings. But rookie Yardley, making his major league debut, was victimized with a hunk of bad luck in the third.
Nick Senzel lined Yardley’s first pitch to left field and Josh Naylor muffed it off his glove for an error. Jose Iglesias bunted Senzel to third and Eugenio Suarez singled him home on a punched hit to right field against San Diego’s overshift.
Aristides Aquino walked on a full count and Phillip Ervin blooped a single to left, loading the bases. That was the end for the unfortunate Yardley. Welcome to the bigs, son.
Trey Wingenter was next to the mound and he promptly walked Freddy Galvis to force in a run and walked Josh VanMeter on four pitches to force in another run. That gave the Reds a 3-1 lead.
Luis Perdomo was next and he gave up a home run to Jose Iglesias in the fourth inning as the Reds pushed their margin to 4-1.
Stammen was next and the University of Dayton product from North Star in Darke County, finished up and gave up a pair of hits but no runs during his two innings.
After Sims gave up the home run to Mejia in the seventh, he retired the next three. Michael Lorenzen pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts.
Closer Raisel Iglesias stalked to the mound for the ninth inning and made the Padres look as if they belong in Williamsport. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning to match the number on his uniform with his 26th save.
Iglesias struck out the first two, which was apropos. The two teams combined for 70 strikeouts, setting an all-time record for the most whiffs in a three-game series in Cincinnati.
To put it in perspective, 156 batters came to the plate and 70 struck out. And that was with strikeout artist Castillo fanning only four Wednesday. But it followed 11 by Trevor Bauer in the first game and 10 by Sonny Gray in the second game. And Iglesias? He has struck out 13 of the last 15 Padres he faced.
That is the way of baseball these days — strikeouts and home runs.
So far this season, 82 major league players have 25 or more home runs with a month-and-a-half remaining in the season.