1-0. That was the final score of the Cincinnati Reds game on Sunday afternoon. It was a game that they lost. It was also a game that the Pittsburgh Pirates won despite not recording a single hit. That may be the most 2022 Cincinnati Reds thing we’ve seen this year, and we’ve seen a lot of things that could fall into that category.
Losing a no-hitter isn’t something that happens every often. In fact, it was just the 6th time since 1900 that a team had lost a game in which the other team didn’t have a hit. But all six of those games have come since 1964, with the last coming when the Dodgers beat the Angels in June of 2008.
Let’s start off with what Hunter Greene did. The 22-year-old rookie put together his best start in the big leagues. He threw 7.1 hitless innings against the Pirates. He struck out nine batters, and while he did have five walks in the game, two of them came to the final two hitters he faced after he had easily crossed the threshold of his highest pitch count of his career and in any other situation would have long been out of the game.
For the second consecutive game, Greene threw more sliders than fastablls. He also threw just two change ups – his lowest total of the season. The Pirates stacked their lineup with left-handed hitters on the day, with only Ke’Bryan Hayes batting from the right side on the day. Their plan to try and get the platoon advantage, one that actually wasn’t there for Greene who had pitched better against lefties this season, didn’t work. It really didn’t work.
There was a lot to like about what Hunter Greene did on Sunday. It’s hard to really find much negative in there other than the five walks. But one thing a lot of people point to is how manager David Bell handled the final inning for Greene. He began the 8th inning at 103 pitches. That’s not terrible on it’s own. It was already a season high – he had thrown 100 pitches in the previous start – but those pitches were spread out well over 7.0 innings.
The problem was two-fold. First was the fact that when the inning began there was no one warming up in the Reds bullpen according to both the television and radio broadcast. It’s one thing to let Greene go out and start the 8th inning and hope that he can get quick outs and have a short inning. It’s another thing to hope that happens and not have a backup plan ready to go at that point of the game. The only reason Greene was still in the game was because he had a no-hitter going. What if he gave up a hit to the first batter? There’s no reason to still have him in there at that point. But Bell apparently wasn’t ready for that scenario.
Then there’s the problem that played itself out. Greene walked the second batter of the inning. Then the third. His pitch count jumped up to 118, and in a game where the score was 0-0, there was now a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 8th inning before a move could be made because no one was ready to come into the game to replace Greene. As you know by now, Art Warren came in and walked the bases loaded and the Pirates then scored when the Reds got the desired ground ball, but couldn’t turn the double play to end the inning. That was the only run of the game and it cost the Reds.
However, beyond just the way that played out, there are some questions about letting Greene throw 118 pitches. It’s the most pitches thrown by a pitcher in a single game this season. Hunter Greene is the youngest starting pitcher in the big leagues. He throws harder than any other starting pitcher in baseball. He’s already had Tommy John surgery. Is it fair to question the decision to let him throw so many pitches? Yes, it’s probably a fair question to ask.
But is it fair to drag David Bell over the coals for allowing Greene to throw 118 pitches in this very specific scenario? I will say that no, it’s not. At least not for the pitch count alone. The decisions talked about above regarding how the 8th inning played out that led to the pitch count is an issue. The pitch count alone, however, is defensible.
Cincinnati has today off. They also have Thursday off. Hunter Greene is going to get more rest between starts than usual because of that. That extra day of rest may or may not have played into David Bell’s decision making on Sunday, but it still matters.