McCoy: Another Wasted Effort By Greene

By Hal McCoy

It was merely an argument for third place in the National League Central, but both starting pitchers performed as if it were the seventh game of the World Series Wednesday afternoon in PNC Park.

Cincinnati Reds starter Hunter Greene pitched 6 1/3 scoreless, two-hit innings.

Pittsburgh Pirates starter Mitch Keller pitched seven scoreless, two-hit innings.

And neither was rewarded with a win. For hitters on both sides, it was like trying to pick up mercury with tweezers.

The game was decided by one lethal swing of the bat by Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds that resulted in a 1-0 Pirates victory.

With two outs and nobody on in the eighth inning of a 0-0 game, Reynolds picked on an 81 miles an hour change-up from relief pitcher Nick Martinez and drove it 407 feet over the center field fence.

That was it, the dagger that was Pittsburgh’s 22nd victory in its last 35 games against the Reds.

And it gave them the series, two games to one, and was their fourth series win in their last five.

It dropped the 35-39 Reds into fourth place, one game behind the 36-38 Pirates.

Against the Pirates, with Greene pitching, the Reds seem to use balsam bats. In his last six starts agains the Pirates, the Reds have scored five runs, four in one game.

Even though the game was played in unbearable heat, Cincinnati’s bats continue to resemble a cold front

For his 6 1/3 innings over 106 pitches, Greene tied his career-high with nine strikeouts and for the first time this season he didn’t walk a batter. And he retired 14 of the last 15 he faced.

All to no avail because the Reds were mystified by eight-game winner Keller.

While pitching in an 87-degree heat, with the heat index near 110, Greene’s uniform top was sopping wet and after one inning he regurgitated in the dugout.

“I had a bunch of water in my system, I definitely hydrated too much and it was all water when I threw it up,” he said during a post-game interview with Bally Sports Ohio. “You have to be that much more strong mentally on day’s like today.”

And he graciously aimed praise at Keller.

“Mitch was keeping us quiet and he was a good rabbit for me to chase today,” he said. “Obviously, he is a fantastic pitcher and had a great performance today. So basically I was trying to stay with him and stay in the game.”

“We just have to keep going, keep competing and try to come out ahead in the next series,” he said, referring to a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox that begins Friday night in Great American Ball Park.

“I was able to watch two games here before I pitched and when you’re throwing the getaway game, you can pay attention to a hitter’s swings. I faced some of the same guys I faced in the past. It was just being able to move (his pitches) around.”

The Reds never set foot on third base and only two reached second base.

With two outs in the third, catcher Luke Maile became Cincinnati’s first base-runner with a walk and he stole second. But Jonathan India struck out.

Leading off the eighth, Stuart Fairchild walked, Keller’s last batter. Fairchild stole second but relief pitcher Colin Holderman retired Maile, pinch-hitter Jeimer Candelario and India.

Reds manager David Bell made a curious move in the eighth after Fairchild walked. Due up was the team’s best bunter, Jacob Hurtubise. But Bell sent up Candelario to pinch-hit and he flied harmlessly to right on the first pitch.

There were only two other Reds runners. Santiago Espinal led the fifth with a single, the first hit off Keller, but Will Benson popped up, Fairchild grounded to first and Hurtubise fouled out.

India singled with one out in the sixth, but Elly De La Cruz flied to center and Spencer Steer lined to left.

The lower portion of the Reds batting order is an expansive wasteland. Benson is 0 for 12, Fairchild is 0 for 12 and Hurtubise is 0 for 12.

Pittsburgh had only two legitimate scoring scenarios against Greene. They put runners on third and second with two outs in the second and Greene struck out Michael A. Taylor.

Rowdy Tellez nearly homered with one out in the seventh. He trotted slowly
out of the box, admiring what he thought was a baseball disappearing over the fence. It crashed against the top of the wall and the slew-footed Tellez was nearly thrown out at second.

That ended Greene’s day and Fernando Cruz came on. He retired Ke’Bryan Hayes on a fly ball, walked Connor Joe, then coaxed a fly ball to right from Yasmani Grandal.

Cruz has stranded 22 of the 25 baserunners he has inherited this season.

But Martinez couldn’t finish it. Reynolds was 0 for 2 with a strikeout and hit by pitch when he came to bat in the eighth, his 16-game hitting streak an endangered species. But his 10th home run extended hls streak to 17 and was the game-decider.

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