If you Google “retires 19 in a row” and “Reds” you’ll find the stories reporting on Brandon Finnegan and the second game of the season. Finnegan struggled in the first inning on April 5, giving up a walk and a hit, throwing 25 pitches. After that, the Reds lefty retired every other batter he faced, striking out 9 Phillies, throwing 88 pitches in 7 innings.

Brandon Finnegan wasn’t given the opportunity to perform a similar Houdini act today. He walked the first two batters he faced on 9 pitches. Before the inning ended, he’d walked another and unleashed a wild pitch. Finnegan threw but 10 strikes in his 26 pitches. Between today’s inning and Finnegan’s short second start of the season, Bryan Price had seen enough. He summoned Robert Stephenson from the bullpen to pitch the 2nd.

The Reds later announced Finnegan left the game due to a “strained left lat muscle.” Yet several signs point to Finnegan being yanked on merit, rather than injury. He received no visit from a trainer (or pitching coach) on the mound and afterward the Reds pitcher sat by himself in the dugout, without medical attention. Price had Stephenson warming up while Finnegan was still pitching.

The Reds are sending messages to Brandon Finnegan like a teenager on a smartphone. The lightning-quick hook today by Bryan Price was one. Opening Day was another. As a returning pitcher, Finnegan would have been the logical choice to pitch on April 3 and he didn’t get the assignment. The organization is desperately trying to communicate to the young lefty that he needs to focus more on the mound and that his role on the team shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Maybe Finnegan was hurt. Maybe Bryan Price was making a point. Whether he has a strained left lat or a “strained left lat” don’t be surprised if Finnegan hits the DL leading to a start for Cody Reed or Robert Stephenson. The DL is 10 days now, not 15, so Finnegan would miss one start.

Cincinnati Reds 7 • Milwaukee Brewers 5 || MLB || FG || Statcast

When Bryan Price isn’t coddling veteran pitchers, he’s doing interesting things with the pitching staff.

Robert Stephenson was effective for his three innings, mixing 95+ mph fastballs with a sharp curveball. Stephenson struck out five, including two key whiffs of Keon Broxton and Jett Bandy in 3rd inning with two runners on. Stephenson struck out Jonathan Villar with a changeup. He only walked one Brewer hitter, largely correcting his control issue. One way or another, Stephenson is coming to a starting rotation near you.

Price then used the best pitcher in the bullpen, Raisel Iglesias, in the 4th inning, with the score still tied. Iglesias pitched two innings, striking out two and walking one. Iglesias doubled in his one at bat. Great idea using Iglesias in this situation.

Tony Cingrani and Drew Storen handled the 7th and 8th before giving way to Michael Lorenzen to close out the game in the 9th.

The meat of the lineup delivered offense today. Zack Cozart barreled another ball to deep left center, tying the game at 2-2 with his third triple of the season. Cozart drove in Eugenio Suarez who had doubled. He added another hit and walk. Cozart is batting .500 with a 12.3% walk rate.

Scoot Scoot Scooter Gennett exacted a bit of revenge on his former club by singling in Eugenio Suarez in the 6th inning to tie the game 4-4. In the 7th, Gennett doubled to right field, knocking in Joey Votto.

Scott Schebler capped off a great 11-pitch at bat in the 2nd inning, slamming his third home run of the year. It’s pointless to hope the radio broadcast will quit evaluating players based solely on batting average, but the rest of us can avoid that mistake.  Schebler has contributed mightily to the offense with walks (12.5%) and power (.324 ISO). Those are elite numbers. Schebler walked in his next at bat and singled later in the game.

Jesse Winker hit a two-run bloop double to left field putting the Reds ahead 6-4 in the 6th inning. It was Winker’s first major league hit.

Maybe Bryan Price ought to consider sending a message to his lead-off hitters about looking to walk. Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza continue to struggle getting on base. Their on-base percentages are .260 (Hamilton) and .255 (Peraza). The players have combined for 1 walk in 102 plate appearances this year. Peraza has 118 PA (regular season plus spring training) with no walks. How about moving Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez to the top of the lineup?

Mark Sheldon says Devin Mesoraco might join the Reds next week if he is able to catch back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Reds are 8-4 and will remain in first place tomorrow.