|Milwaukee Brewers (89-80)
|Cincinnati Reds (73-86)
|W: Anderson (8-4) L: Castillo (15-8) SV: Hader (37)
|Statcast | Box Score | Game Thread|
Thursday’s game against the postseason-bound Brewers marked a number of endings for the Cincinnati Reds: the final game to be called by longtime radio announcer Marty Brennaman; the home finale for the 2019 season; a likely white-flag-waving of Eugenio Suarez’s chase for the NL home run crown; and the last time that an unknown number of current Reds will enjoy the view from the first-base dugout.
It also marked the final trip to the mound this season for Luis Castillo. While the Reds have continued to fare well overall in games that he starts, Castillo hasn’t pitched as effectively during the second half of the season as he did prior to the All-Star break, when he earned a ticket to Cleveland on the back of an 8-3 record and a 2.29 ERA. At the time, opposing batters were hitting just .169/.286/.276 off of him, although his walk rate (4.5/9) was worrisome.
In his 13 second-half starts prior to Thursday’s game, meanwhile, Castillo sported a 4.52 ERA. The opposition hit .238/.289/.419 off of him in that time, but his walk rate plunged to 2.5/9. In other words, the OBP was similar, but the drop in walks was offset by an increase in hits (on average, Castillo has given up two more per game during the second half), so the damage has been greater. Overall, though, Castillo has been a joy to watch pitch every fifth day, and after a season in which he and Sonny Gray each struck out more than 200 batters, spring training 2020 can’t get here soon enough.
When Castillo took the mound on Thursday, it was his fifth time to face Milwaukee this season. His two starts at Miller Park were disastrous, as he pitched a combined 6 1/3 innings and gave up 10 hits, 8 walks and 8 earned runs. At Great American Ball Park, though, Castillo was electric, yielding just two hits and one run over 14 2/3 innings while striking out 18. (This being 2019, the Reds still managed to lose one of those two home games.)
He got off to a strong start on Thursday, throwing only nine pitches during a 1-2-3 first. In the bottom half of the inning, Aristides Aquino crushed a two-out, 1-1 pitch — described by Brennaman as a “high, towering drive” — into the second deck for his 18th home run, the team’s franchise-record 223rd longball of the season.
Castillo needed 12 pitches to retire the Brewers in order the second and another dozen to do so in the third, when he pitched around a leadoff infield single on a deflected ground ball. In the fourth, however, the wheels fell off. After getting ahead 0-2 on Brewers leadoff batter Yasmani Grandal, Castillo threw four straight balls that were just low of the strike zone. Castillo’s next three pitches to Keston Hiura were also out of the zone, and after finally throwing a strike, Hiura drew a walk. After a strikeout and a groundout, a visibly frustrated Castillo walked his third batter of the inning to load the bases.
Orlando Arcia then hit a 1-1 pitch into left-center where Josh VanMeter tried to make a catch on the run, only to have the ball pop out of his glove. It was scored a double, and the Reds suddenly found themselves down 3-1. On the next pitch, Ben Gamel clubbed a line drive to left that VanMeter tried to snag with an ill-advised diving catch (Brennaman said VanMeter had “no chance at all”), plating another run. Castillo ended up throwing 34 pitches before collecting the third out – one more than he pitched in the first three innings combined.
Castillo’s troubles continued in the fifth, when he issued a one-out walk before yielding back-to-back hits — one of which was bobbled by VanMeter, making his bad day in the field even worse — that increased the Brewers’ lead to four. It proved to Castillo’s his final inning of 2019, and his final line for the day belied just how dominant he was during the game’s first three innings: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 8 K. He threw 87 pitches and 14 of 23 first-pitch strikes.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Reds’ offense temporarily awoke from hibernation when Phillip Ervin hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a Jose Iglesias groundout. Kyle Farmer — starting at third the day after Suarez hit his 49th home run of the year — then blooped a single into shallow left field to score Ervin and shrink the Brewers’ lead to three.
In the eighth, Ervin doubled again, and Iglesias subsequently drove him in with a double of his own. With two out, Suarez came to the plate as a pinch-hitter and was intentionally walked to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After fouling off three pitches, pinch-hitter Christian Colon was hit on the foot to load the bases. Jose Peraza then popped out to end the threat. (“That has been the essence of this ballclub the entire season — the lack of key hitting,” Brennaman said.)
The Reds bullpen was lights-out on the day, as Kevin Gausman, Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson combined to throw four perfect innings, striking out six along the way.
For the radio broadcast, Brennaman — who choked up several times during the broadcast — called all nine innings rather than temporarily yielding the play-by-play to Jeff Brantley as usual. In the fifth, he took the time to advocate for Pete Rose’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame, saying that his opinion had swung completely since Rose earned a lifetime ban and that the steroid era left a worse stain on the sport than the actions of Charlie Hustle. “That Hall of Fame will never be whole until the day comes that Pete Rose is in it,” Brennaman said. “My biggest fear is that one day he will be in it, but he will be elected after he is no longer with us — and if that should occur, that will be the grossest injustice of them all.”
Despite the loss, the Reds ended 2019 with a winning record at home, their first time in five seasons to do so. It marked the team’s fourth consecutive season in which they drew less than 2 million fans.
The Reds will end the season on the road against the Pirates. Anthony DeSclafani will start game 1 of the series tomorrow night.