2017 Reds / Titanic Struggle Recap

Sal Romano turns in his longest big-league outing, leads Reds to 5-3 win

Final R H E
Cincinnati Reds (52-71) 5 9 0
Atlanta Braves (54-66) 3 8 0
W: Sal Romano (3-5)  L: R.A. Dickey (8-8)  SV: Raisel Iglesias (23)
FanGraphs Win Probability | Box Score | Game Thread | Statcast

While no young starting pitcher aside from Luis Castillo has locked themselves into the Reds’ 2018 plans, Sal Romano showed he wants to be a part of that discussion tonight. The right-hander turned in his longest outing as a big-leaguer, firing seven innings of one-run baseball to guide the Reds to a 5-3 victory over the Braves in their first trip to SunTrust Park.

Here’s how tonight’s game went down:

The Hurlers

Sal Romano looked in command tonight and turned in his best outing as a big leaguer. He allowed only one run on five hits in a season-high seven innings pitched, striking out three and walking two. The only damage against him was a solo home run by Matt Adams in the second inning.

Rather than overthrowing like he has in past starts, he had good control of his fastball and challenged Braves hitters with all three of his pitches — including, yes, his changeup, which he used 16 times tonight. He didn’t get a lot of swings and misses (4) but forced batters to put the ball in play, picking up nine ground outs. Romano still dialed it up when he needed to, though. His final pitch of the night: a 96-mph fastball to strike out Micah Johnson looking.

Romano handed a 5-1 lead to the bullpen in the eighth. Kevin Shackelford had a rough time of things, though. He allowed back-to-back singles to Ender Inciarte and Brandon Phillips to start the inning. He got a pair of ground outs and was one out away from escaping the inning with only one run allowed, but gave up an RBI double to Tyler Flowers and walked Adams before being lifted for Blake Wood.

Wood need only one pitch to escape the jam, however, inducing a line out to left field to preserve the lead at 5-3.

Raisel Iglesias gave up a walk in the ninth but was otherwise dominant, striking out two and catching a line drive back at him from Phillips to end the game and earn his 23rd save of the season.

The Hitters

R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball was darting all over the place tonight, and the Reds had no answer to it through five innings, picking up only three hits and striking out seven times. But the Cincinnati offense got to him for three home runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 4-1 lead.

After striking out twice against Dickey to start his day, Joey Votto singled to begin the inning. Adam Duvall followed with a 410-foot homer to left-center field. Two batters later, Eugenio Suarez joined the action with an opposite-field solo shot to right-center, tying his career high of 21 home runs. Jesse Winker made it back-to-back jacks by sneaking a homer around the right-field foul pole.

The Reds missed a chance at a huge inning in the seventh. Billy Hamilton doubled to lead it off, Zack Cozart was hit by a pitch, and Votto — get this — walked to load the bases. Only one run scored, though, as Duvall grounded into a double play and Scooter Gennett struck out. Fortunately, it wouldn’t come back to bite them.

Not-So-Random Thoughts

— The Tomahawk Chop song is pretty annoying.

— Cozart was hit in the shin with a pitch in the seventh inning and took a very long time to shake it off and get to first base. He left the game in the bottom of the inning and was replaced by Jose Peraza at shortstop.

— Scott Schebler returned from the disabled list today and appeared as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. He worked a full count and reached first when he took a pitch off the right leg.

— It’s hard to say enough about Suarez’s plate approach this season. He drew two more walks tonight and now has 69 on the season, including 22 in his last 23 games. Coming into tonight, he ranked 14th among all qualified hitters in walk rate (13.8%) and 10th in walks. His ability to use the whole field is also impressive; he now has seven opposite-field home runs this season.

— Hamilton had one of the strangest base hits you’ll ever see tonight. The ball was nothing more than a weak pop-up with an exit velocity of 50.6 mph and a hit probability of four percent, but he managed to sneak it over Brandon Phillips’ head as it barely landed in the outfield grass behind third base.

— Winker already has more home runs through 81 plate appearances in the big leagues (3) than he did in 347 trips to the plate in the minor leagues (2).

— Votto struck out three times in a game for the first time since July 8, 2016. He only has 10 multi-strikeout games this season, a career low. His previous low (in a full season of play) was 20 in 2008, his rookie season.

Up Next

After a tuneup appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday, Robert Stephenson (6.64 ERA, 5.43 xFIP) will make his first start since August 2. That outing was his best since returning to the Reds rotation in late July, as he tossed 5 ⅔ innings of one-run, two-hit baseball against the Pirates and walked only two. He’ll face Julio Teheran (4.98 ERA, 5.04 xFIP), who is in the midst of a disappointing season one year after leading the Braves pitching staff with a 3.2 fWAR.

40 thoughts on “Sal Romano turns in his longest big-league outing, leads Reds to 5-3 win

  1. So people complain about Marty because he rips Votto. Well he is 1000 times better than Kelch who might be the worst announcer I have heard.

    • I have not listened in years being out of market but occasionally can pick up 700 wlw after dark and feel Marty still calls a good game. The impression I got is Marty ripped on Votto because he was not hitting like an MVP and not having elite RBI numbers.
      Now that Votto has that Marty does not rip on him. When Marty said Votto was not elite, he was coming off a horrible season and at the time his stats were very average for a first baseman (lack of high RBI’s contributed to this as well), ever since then Votto has been phenomenal.
      He had an argument at the time, it is pointless to make this now and just wonder if people are so worried what an announcer says they cannot let it go. Does Marty still rip Votto

  2. Love seeing this from Big Sal. He to me is a classic Johnny Cueto candidate. I really wish I could find the article where Cueto said he had an epiphany watching Mike Leake pitch one day, realizing that control and location are more important that velocity, which helped Cueto learn how to pitch instead of going up there trying to throw the ball through a wall every time.

    Hoping Sal can have that kind of realization too, but unfortunately he doesn’t have any good role models to watch at the moment. He’ll just have to figure it out on his own.

    • Dare I mention Feldman and Adelman as role models? Such success as they have had is a direct result of control and location. Unfortunately, they can’t always summon them.

      • On numerous occasions I’ve seen Bailey mentoring the younger kids. Even while injured he was always talking to Lorenzen.
        Bronson is still in the dugout, you know he likes to talk…maybe he is helping

        • I think it was Dan Straily that helped Finnegan with the changeup last year. BF had a 2.93 era after the AS break last year. These guys get so much coaching and they’re around veteran guys….hard to say when/if they can take instruction and make it happen. Its obv not an exact science? Kenley Jansen can smoke guys all day long with 94 mph while Lorenzen is getting smacked around at 98 mph. Its having command of what you have.

  3. Was at the same Yankee game that a couple others attended in July including Homer’s favorite fan this blog’s Mr.Mancuso. Prior to the game Bronso Arroyo graciously visited the left field/third base line to sign autographs, pose for pictures and carry on pleasant conversation (he won over 80 games in the minors prior to his 140+ victories in the majors, of which 100+ were as a Red).

    Hopefully Bronson is helping with the mental side of the game, someone there needs to provide guidance and positive support to carry over the tough times that invariably confront the youngsters. When ML Michael Lorenzen began his rookie season he started decently, and he often peppered Johnny Cueto with questions, essentially shaping JC as his mentor. After the trade away of Cueto in 2015, Lorenzen’s season deteriorated quickly.

    The Reds need guys to aid their young arms….Mario Soto to teach them a plus plus change up, maybe a Tom Browning to guide the lefties. Tap into the alum base to enhance the arms, and change managers so the Reds have a guy in charge who optimizes his given resources.

    Playing favorites (Hoover, now Woods) and not riding the hot hand (most recently Ervin….though perhaps the knuckleballer thing gives Price a pass) and poor observation skills (Feldman obviously hurting in first inning per Cubs broadcasters, Cozart with the quad issue that cost them a run in a game eventually given away) and inefficient bullpen usage (Iggy brought in to mop up that same Yankee game, also wasted three times since in low leverage situations when he could have been used in high leverage, tied or one run deficit games; same with Lorenzen just this past week for ONE OUT before Scooter was brought in)…..time for some fresh air.

    Sal will play a part in turning this ship around if a decent person is placed at the helm.

  4. Price will be back next year and it will be more of the same but last night it was all about Romano.Braves can hit and have power so this wasn’t a little league team he was facing.Big Sal did get some outs in hitters counts but you have to make the pitches in those situations to be successful.He looked great and for the most part kept the ball down to get the grounders.Experience is everything and the only way to get it is to pitch.He’s had some stinkers and will have some more but tonight he was really really good.

  5. Who is Stephenson replacing in the rotation? Is it Feldman or someone else?

        • It would get his bat in the lineup and the exit velocity from his bat could offset the lack of velocity on his pitches.

        • Maybe in an odd turn of events, Wojo replaces Feldman in the rotation.

          By the way, like your profile name – Rolen’s first name and Scooter’s last name!

      • If I understood Bryan Price on the pregame show, the original plan was that Stephenson would replace Wojo, but with Feldman going on the DL, Wojo will keep a spot in the rotation as well as Stephenson.

  6. Shoot, the Old Cossack is not above pummeling a deceased equine…

    Reds OBP rankings (min 50 PA) :

    #1 [.447] Votto
    #2 [.404] Cozart
    #3 [.383] Winker
    #4 [.380] Suarez
    #5 [.339] Gennett
    #6 [.330] Barnhart
    #7 [.321] Mesoraco
    #8 [.312] Duvall
    #9 [.306] Schebler
    #10 [.303] Kivlehan
    #11 [.299] Peraza
    #12 [.299] Hamilton
    #13 [.218] Turner

    Who should NEVER hit in the top 1/3 of the lineup?

    Turner, Hamilton, Peraza, Kivlehan, Schebler, Duvall, Mesoraco, Barnhart & Gennett

    Reds OPS rankings (min 50 PA)

    #1 [1.045] Votto
    #2 [.982] Cozart
    #3 [.864] Gennett
    #4 [.864] Suarez
    #5 [.841] Duvall
    #6 [.840] Winker
    #7 [.779] Schebler
    #8 [.717] Kivlehan
    #9 [.713] Barnhart
    #10 [.711] Mesoraco
    #11 [.632] Hamilton
    #12 [.630] Peraza
    #13 [.512] Turner

    Who should NEVER hit in the top 2/3 of the lineup?

    Turner, Peraza, Hamilton, Mesoraco, Barnhart, Kivlehan

    Turner & Kivlehan are strictly utility players and can be omitted from regular playing time as starters. Barnhart & Mesoraco are mutually exclusive as a starters and can be lumped together as the starting catcher. The Reds have excellent options for their starting lineup and batting order, but one single fact jumps out and smacks you upside the head if you are willing to look with anything resembling a critical, unbiased approach.

    Hamilton & Peraza should NEVER hit in the top 2/3 of the lineup…EVER…if they start. There are simply too many other, better options available even if Price puts them in the starting lineup. The top 3 should always be hitter who get on base a lot and regularly. The 3-6 hitters should always be hitters who maximize the number of bases per PA. The bottom 3 should be hitters who do not get on base and who do not drive the ball when they make contact (i.e. lineup positions used to hide weak hitters and the pitcher). By simply reducing PA for Hamilton and Peraza, not even removing them from the starting lineup, and spreading those PA among the other 6 players in the starting lineup, the team OBP & OPS would increase significantly and runs scored would increase significantly. From that point, the discussion needs to address actual playing time and who should be in the regular starting lineup.

    • Good observations on the line up. I agree on Peraza but given his youth there is a good chance he will improve his pitch selection. Suarez has improved, Peraza may also. Until he does he belongs low in the lineup. Hamilton is a problem. He has been around long enough for the team to expect some improvement. He is proving to be a liability as a hitter. Given he plays a position where offense is expected it is hard to justify him holding down any place in a batting order. His one asset is speed which translates into good defense and excellent base running. All of this is negated by his non existent offense. The Reds may want to retain Hamilton as a 4th or 5th outfielder to be used primarily as a late inning defensive replacement or pinch runner in key situations. Assuming this occurs the Reds need to look at Schebler and Ervin in CF and consider trade options to fill the CF spot. It is not clear they have anyone near ready in the minors. All of this said, the Reds are not competing for the playoffs until they fix the starting pitching. This will take another couple of years for sure. DeSclafani, Castillo, and Romano offer hope but they are no sure bets to succeed. DeSclafani’s arm injuries very worrisome. it will be interesting to see what Stephenson does over his next starts. Reed will probably get another look in September. Mahle is in the wings. Finnegan would be a real plus if he can avoid injury. There are just too many if’s……

      • Good points. Personally I go back-n-forth on Billy so often….prob like every other Reds fan? Last night though…if you look at his 2 hits (single/double)…neither one was hit hard but because the corners have to play in it allowed the first bloop to get BPs head at 3rd and the last one was just a chopper down the 1st base line but it go on Freeman pretty quick and Billy was on 2nd. He just needs to be stronger…thats it! If he came into Arizona next year at 170-175 lbs of muscle then he might do some damage? He scored 27 runs in May on a .339 obp. He always has flashes of brilliance!

        • I go back and forth on Billy too. Right now I am down on him. I support batting him leadoff the rest of the year just be sure he is given a full opportunity though it is clear he has been given a fair shot over the last 4 years. I guess every player has flashes of brilliance on occasion. I just wish Billy’s light was a little brighter and more consistent.

        • I no longer go back and forth on Hamilton. It’s clear to me that we have now seen conclusively what he is — a fantastic defensive centerfielder who cannot hit righthanded worth a darn, and can’t put bat on ball consistently enough lefthanded to take advantage of his number one asset, his speed. To me, it’s now clear that Hamilton is one of the off-season’s top trade chips, with the hoped-for return being an established starting pitcher who has two or three years of contract control remaining.

          • Tom, why would any team give the Reds a good pitcher for Hamilton. If he does not help the Reds why would he help some other club?

          • I chose the word “established” to describe the pitcher with purpose. You are right, no team is going to give up a top pitcher for Hamilton. But a team that feels that a great defensive centerfielder is their missing link might be willing to surrender a middle-of-the-rotation type of starter. There are other teams who probably still salivate over Hamilton and believe they can “fix” him, just like the Reds have for years.

            Say what you want about the flashes some of the Reds’ young pitchers show, there is no weaker link on any major league team currently than the Reds starting pitching. They HAVE to bring in at least one established arm to slot behind Castillo, and then let the rest fight it out for spots three through five in 2018.

      • Sample size alert.

        If Peraza continues to make the necessary adjustments to improve his OBP, then (and only then) will he alter the discussion. I do believe Peraza has untapped upside potential and could eventually contribute as a starter.

        Right now, neither Peraza nor Gennett should hit in the top third of the lineup so I’m not sure what your comparison of their OBP is intended to mean.

        • I’m aware of sample size……and yes I dropped the ball on the top third part, I will cut myself extra deep later for punishment. Not really, I might accidentally scratch myself at work, but that’s totally different.

          • I always opt for the scratching at work. It’s simply more intrusive upon others. I figure if the Old Cossack has to suffer, then others should suffer too.

      • And yet the same OPS post AS break? JP .693 and Scooter .694. That just goes to show the value of power. Jose hits .300 for a stretch and still can’t be average offensively? He has only 2 doubles, no HRs, and 1 steal since the break. I like the kid and he’s made some strides. 10 walks/9 Ks since the break is very encouraging because he’s putting the ball in play and making opponents make the play.

        The thing is….Scooter can mash righties. His #s would look much better if Price strictly platooned him vs lefties. He did have a big grand slam off All-Star lefty Brad Hand recently and a HR in Chicago vs a lefty, but overall he has 77 atbats vs lefties w/a .683 ops. I can’t see a scenario in the next few years where Peraza could ever match Suarez, Senzel, or a Scooter platoon w/Blandino or someone. To me…he’s either a utility guy or a trade possibility even if they let Cozart walk.

        • I don’t disagree about the trade idea, I think GABP may not be the right place for perazas hit tool, but I also feel it’s too early and he’s too young for that to be definitive. He needs to play regularly to figure that out. Gennett is a known commodity who had a stellar few months. Giving a 23 year old less than a year to prove himself is a fairly nearsighted move by management IMO.

    • Well stated Cossack.The big thing for me is that it is so obvious that it will insure we get on base more as a team which translates in to more runs.To say Price cares about winning is just not true at all when he continues to defy logic and bat Billy at the top of the line-up.He won’t change and when he comes back next year he will do the same thing.

  7. I don’t think it is Price who is making the decision to bat Billy leadoff. I see it as an organization decision to determine once and for all if Billy is a core player and part of the Reds future. Given the Reds record it makes little difference where anyone bats. Nothing will be learned batting Hamilton 8th other than if he ever gets on base the pitcher will be trying to bunt him to second base.

    • I used to also believe that the organization was dictating that Price bat Hamilton leadoff. Then I heard Price on his pre-game radio show the day recently when he gave Hamilton the day off and batted Winker leadoff. I don’t recall his exact comment, but it was something to the effect that even though Winker had a history of good on-base percentage, he didn’t have the speed and ability to steal you usually see in a leadoff batter. It hit me then like a ton of bricks that Price really doesn’t see the benefits of batting someone like Winker at the top of the order.

      • I also don’t buy into the concept that DW is dictating to Price that Hamilton or Peraza MUST be inserted into the top of the order. That’s all on Price. This represents a basic baseball conceptual flaw that screams for Price to be replaced because he simply does not put the players or the team in the best position to succeed. It doesn’t matter this season, but it will not change going forward. Like Hamilton, Price has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his ability to put the players and the team in the best position to succeed and has failed miserably. This has nothing to do with the win/loss record or the issue with injuries and failed performances by the young players. This is strictly Price being a poor manager.

  8. Price is not the problem. The worst starting pitching in baseball is the problem. The great Bruce Bochy has a worst record than Price with a payroll twice as high. No manager in baseball could win with the Reds pitching staff and its lack of position player depth. This team has had the fewest pitched innings by its starters and the most by its bullpen. More often than not the Reds are down by 5-6 runs by the 4 th inning. The fact that Price has kept this team playing hard through this is a credit to his leadership. I have never understood blaming managers. Everyone knows it is the players who make the difference. Every team that is in playoff contention has a good pitching staff. Good pitching keeps a team in every game. It is that simple. Fix the pitching and the team will be competitive. Firing managers and starting over with a new coaching staff will not make lousy talent better. More likely it makes it worse.

    • Price is a problem. He’s not developing the young pitchers. That was supposed to be his forte. Prior to this gig he had NO managerial experience.

      That compounds the poor pitching…which resulted in part from Price’s own inability, lack of strength – WHATEVER – to tell management that Bronson was not effective three or four bad starts into the season.

      • Playtown is correct – it’s difficult to assess a manager’s ability when the horses just aren’t available. If the SP’s were a healthy unit of Bailey, Disco, Finnegan, Feldman and a 5th – then this conversation might be entirely different.

        However, DaBear has a legitimate point with 2nd statement. The development of young pitchers appears haphazard. I can’t tell who’s coming or going – why they’re demoted, why they’re promoted, is there a plan? Some guys start in the bullpen so they can be used in optimum situations, watch the big league game and work with the ML bullpen pitching coach. But then, when brought into the game are horribly ineffective, fail and are sent to AAA to sort things out. Is there a pitching coach in Louisville that mentors them and builds them back up for the next opportunity? I honestly don’t know the coaching staff well enough to answer my own questions (might make for a good article).

        Sure, injuries have made that part of the sorting a complete mess. And obviously starting pitching depth down into the minors is lagging from years of neglect.

        In 2016 the bullpen was a complete mess and this year has been much improved. So kudos to the coaching staff for an area of measurable success. And the everyday lineup has some talent and has really played well over the course of the season. So 2 of 3 areas look solid.

        Let’s hope that whomever is at the helm next season can help the SP develop into a solid unit.

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