By Hal McCoy
As far as major league debuts go, the man on the mound for the Cincinnati Reds Monday night did not earn a grade of ‘A,’ he earned an ‘AA’ grade, as in Andrew Abbott..
The 24-year-old left-hander was peerless, practically perfect, during his coming out party while pitching the Reds to a 2-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
In six innings, he held the division-leading Brewers to no runs and one hit to help his new team end a four-game losing streak and avert four straight losses to Milwaukee.
The two runs were provided via solo home runs by Stuart Fairchild and Tyler Stephenson.
Abbott began the season at Class AA Chattanooga and dominated, he was promoted early in the season to Class AAA Louisville and dominated and he packed that domination and brought it to The Big Show.
He is undefeat this season — 1-0 at Chattanooga, 3-0 at Louisville and 1-0 for the Reds.
Nerves and jitters were evident in the early going. He needed 53 pitches to get through the first two innings.
Up in the Great American Ball Park stands, Jim Day of Bally Sports Ohio interviewed Abbott’s family after the seconds inning and his father said, “He’s nibbling. Tbat’s not him. You are going to see a different pitcher in the third inning.”
Father knows best.
He needed only eight pitches for a 1-2-3 third, 11 pitches for a 1-2-3 fourth and 12 pitches in the fifth. The only hit off Abbott came with one out in the fifth, a double by Joey Wiemer.
“That sounds like him. He knows me pretty well,” said Abbott during his post-game media interview when he was told what his father said. “He coached me when I was young up to about high school. That’s a reliable source.”
Abbott retired the firset two batters he faced, then walked William Contreras on a full count. ThenChristia n Yelich, Milwaukee’s most dangerous hitter, was at the plate and Abbott struck him out for his first major-league strikeout.
But that inning took 28 pitches.
Abbott pitched his way into the danger zone in the second by walking Brian Anderson and Luis Arias, both on full counts, to start the inning. But he retired Rowdy Tellez on a fly to right and struck out Wiemer and Blake Perkins, using another 25 pitches.
Of his wobbly start, he said, “It was a little bit of nerves, but mostly just me. I said to myself, ‘Hey, I don’t like walking people,’ so it was like get after ‘em and get in the zone. My stuff is good enough to get outs, so just go right at ‘em.”
And that he did. At one point he retired 10 in a row with no problems arriving. . .until the sixth. He issue his fourth walk, a leadoff free pass to Andruw Monasterio.
Normally, with a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning, if a pitcher walked the first batter, manager David Bell would bolt from the dugout to make a pitching change.
This time he didn’t. And he was rewarded. Abbott struck out Contreras on a full count, strucl out Yelich again and retired Brian Anderson on a fly to left.
“When I was a reliever (at the University of Virginia), I knew what the feeling is when a coach is going to make a move,” he said. “I wanted to leave under my own power if possible. I’m just gracious that they had the trust in me to ride it out.”
Bell said he debated about lifting Abbott with two outs and the right-handed Anderson coming to bat.
“It was his first time out and we had Buck Farmer ready,” said Bell. “It was a tough decision whether to let him pitch to Anderson. But in the end it was, ‘How do you take him out?’ He was pitching great. And he has shown he can get those guys out.”
After Abbott retired Anderson, he was at 105 pitches, the most pitches he has thrown at any time during his professional career.
“I personally don’t like the four walks,” Abbott said of his performance. “That’s a tough stat for me. The game overall was good, but the four walks? I gotta be better than that.”
Farmer pitched the seventh and gave up a harmless two-out double to Wiemer, who had two of Milwaukee’s three hits. Lucas Sims gave up a leadoff infield single to Owen Miller in the eighth, but the Reds turned a 5-4-3 double play.
And it was time for Mr. Automatic, closer Alexis Diaz. He struck out the side on 12 pitches for his 14th save in 14 opportunities.
Offensively, the Reds did it unconventionally, at least for them. The two runs were solo home runs. The first was a leadoff blast to left in the third inning by Fairchild, inserted into the lineup just before game time, replacing ailing Jake Fraley. The second was a rip to right field by Stephenson with two outs in the fourth.
The home runs were a necessity because Milwaukee starter Julio Teheran entered the game with a 2-and-0 record and a 0.82 earned run average.
With four Milwaukee starters on the injured list, the Brewers went searching for starters. Teheran was pitching at Triple-A for the San Diego Padres and opted out of his minor-league contract on May 24
The Brewers signed him on May 25 and four hours later he beat San Francisco, holding the Giants to one run and five hits over five innings. And his previous game before facing the Reds, he beat Toronto with six shutout innings on four hits.
The Reds gathered only six hits off him and, strangely, they were 0 for 0 with runners in scoring position and didn’t strand a runner.