2017 Reds / Titanic Struggle Recap

Robert Stephenson shows poise despite command issues, guides Reds to win over Brewers

Final R H E
Milwaukee Brewers (72-67) 3 5 1
Cincinnati Reds (60-79) 9 11 0
W: Robert Stephenson (4-4)  L: Zach Davies (16-8)  SV: Raisel Iglesias (25)
FanGraphs Win Probability | Box Score | Game Thread | Statcast

When a club is out of playoff contention in September, playing the spoiler to other teams’ postseason chances is often all that’s left to play for. The Reds are relishing that role against the Brewers.

For a second straight day, Cincinnati dealt a loss to its division rival, keeping Milwaukee on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. With a second consecutive Cubs loss, the Brewers remain 3.5 games out of first in the NL Central, but they’ve dropped to two games back in the Wild Card (and the Rockies are winning as of this writing, which would drop the Brewers to 2.5 games out).

Here’s how tonight’s game went down:

The Hurlers

The good news: Robert Stephenson fired six solid innings, allowing only one run on four hits and striking out seven. The double-play ball was his best friend, as he induced three of them on the night.

The bad news: he needed those double plays because he walked five Brewers hitters, including opposing pitcher Zach Davies — twice.

Those command lapses aside, though, Stephenson again gave reasons for fans to be encouraged, particularly in the fourth inning. After allowing only two baserunners through the first three innings, he allowed two walks and a single to load the bases with nobody out. From there, the game got out of hand — or at least, that’s probably what I would’ve written three or four months ago. Instead, Stephenson buckled down and didn’t allow the Brewers to put another ball in play, striking out the next three hitters to escape the jam unscathed.

After getting double plays to erase walks in each of the next two innings, Stephenson was sent back out to the mound for the seventh inning with 93 pitches. Had he recorded one out, it would’ve been his longest outing of the season, but he gave up back-to-back doubles and was pulled from the game.

The wildness continued for the Reds bullpen.

Asher Wojciechowski walked two batters to load the bases after relieving Stephenson, but he preserved the lead with a pair of strikeouts and a free out given up on a sacrifice bunt.

With the lead stretched to six in the eighth, Ariel Hernandez couldn’t find the plate. Despite his electric stuff, he’s been known for his wildness at times, and that was on display tonight. He walked Ryan Braun to lead off the inning and allowed a two-run home run to next batter Travis Shaw. After walking the next two hitters, Hernandez was lifted in favor of Raisel Iglesias.

As you’d expect, Iglesias didn’t allow either inherited runner to move, retiring the next three hitters.

Although the offense tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, Iglesias finished out the game for his 25th save.

The Hitters

The Reds couldn’t put much together against Davies, but they did enough to get to the Brewers’ bullpen early and blow the game wide open.

They jumped out in front in the third frame thanks to some shaky defense from Jonathan Villar in center field. The inning started with Villar dropping a fly ball from Stephenson (which was initially ruled as Stephenson’s first career double but later changed to an error). Two batters later, Zack Cozart floated a line drive into center field that got by Villar, resulting in an RBI double.

There were no more runs to be had until the sixth inning, when Scooter Gennett lined a two-out double to left-center field and scored on an opposite-field single by Eugenio Suarez to chase Davies from the game.

The Reds’ offense exploded for five runs in the seventh against the Brewers’ bullpen. The scoring was capped by a three-run home run from Gennett, his 24th (!) of the season, against the team that designated him for assignment during spring training.

For good measure, they tacked on two more in the eighth, highlighted by a successful safety squeeze bunt by Billy Hamilton.

Not-So-Random Thoughts

— Stephenson’s 11-strikeout game was impressive, but striking out the side after loading the bases in the fourth inning may have been the highlight of his return to the rotation. Yes, in an ideal world, he wouldn’t have loaded the bases with no outs and he wouldn’t have walked five batters. That’s clearly something he needs to clean up. But you also want to see poise from young pitchers when they get into trouble — just like Luis Castillo has all year — and that’s what Stephenson showed tonight.

— Since allowing 39 runs over a four-game stretch from August 19–23, Reds pitchers have not allowed more than five runs in any of the last 12 games. Over that time, the starters have a 2.82 ERA. That’ll do.

— Reds pitchers walked 10 batters tonight. Not many teams win ballgames when they do that. Even fewer teams will only allow three runs when they do that.

Up Next

The Reds will look to complete their first sweep since early June when they took four straight from the Cardinals. Luis Castillo (3.32 ERA, 3.61 xFIP) will make his final start of the season tomorrow afternoon before he is shut down due to his innings limit. For those who missed it, he’ll be replaced in the starting rotation by Amir Garrett this weekend. Matt Garza (4.77 ERA, 5.14 xFIP) will take the mound for the Brew Crew. The afternoon matinee is set to begin at 12:35 p.m. ET.

17 thoughts on “Robert Stephenson shows poise despite command issues, guides Reds to win over Brewers

  1. Stephenson was impressive despite the five walks. Guys with truly outstanding skills can get away with things other guys can’t just like in other parts of life. It is not ideal but in the end results count more than how they came to be.

    Part of the risk reward cycle is that guys with better stuff are often on a finer edge. Unless they throw a meatball at the wrong time, they generally can come through Just look at how many counts Iglesias and Chapman run for instance.

    Hopefully BobSteve will continue to progress and rein in the walks because he is more likely to get burned because of them. But again, worth noting that tonight despite the walks, he recorded 18 outs on 93 pitches before he took the mound to start the 7th; that is not pitch inefficient. He probably hit the wall when he did because he was never really stretched out all season, not the walks per se.

    • Pitch count is a tad higher than you want it. But 6 inning at 93 pitches isn’t bad either (compared to the majority of 2017 Reds starters). 15 pitches per inning I’d take all day. Stretching him out to where he can get through 7 innings at 105-110 pitches would be grand.

      • I think 15 pitches per inning is generally seen as the gold standard game in and game out. The back breaker last night was the 4th inning, 28 pitches.

        Almost as impressive as his escape from the 4th was that he had enough left in the tank to come out and throw two more solid innings afterwards. Recall a couple of weeks back versus Atlanta in a similar point in the game, Castillo was in a situation much the same as BSteve last night in the 4th. Castillo was also able to elevate his game and escape, However his 28 pitch inning seemed to drain his tank; and, the next inning he got lit up for one of the few times all year.

  2. Why are big league managers so addicted to sacrifice bunting… probably because they can’t resist tinkering with the outcome of the game. If I am manager I sit back never let my players steal and NEVER sacrifice except maybe with a pitcher who is a terrible hitter. And it would be pretty boring, all I could do is offer encouragement and wait. That is all a manager should do except for draw up a lineup card and manage the bullpen.

    • So if you have a pitcher who was super slow in the delivery and a catcher with a poor arm you wouldn’t try to steal? Steals and bunts are weapons to be used when as the opportunity affords. I wouldn’t build a team around stealing and bunting but I think we get wrapped up in looking at the macro level results of an action and try to apply in an absolute manner.

      • Agreed – used appropriately. And Billy’s two bunts (especially the perfectly placed squeeze) were an appropriate use of his skill. Just don’t bat him 1st (we’ve heard that before, right?)

        • I agree M but his skill is not bunting for hits it just bunting or the ability to get it on the ground.Odds are he wasn’t going to hit a fly ball deep enough or get a hit in those situations so bunting was his only weapon.Giving away outs by having the pitcher bunt to bring up Billy is just fools gold but the line up constructed as it is gives you no choice because the pitcher can’ hit either.Its fixable but it won’t be fixed.

      • I think he said he’d let his players steal. So, I don’t think it’s stealing he’s against, just bunting.

  3. I don’t really understand the decision making Price employs when pulling a pitcher from a game. He left Bailey and Stephenson in when they had pitched six shutout innings, only for both to immediately run out of gas and tarnish their starts by giving up runs without retiring batters. But when Castillo was rolling and under 90 pitches he was pulled after 4 innings.

    It reminds me of when Baker would run Arroyo out there an inning too long.

    • I noticed the same. However at this point in this season, I’m guessing Price’s behavior is about more about the future than the specific current game. They want to extend Bailey and Stephenson to see if they can break through the 6 inning wall. Castillo on the other hand is long on innings for this year; and, they don’t want to extend and fatigue him thus increasing his exposure to injury.

      If the Reds were in the position the Brewers are of fighting for a playoff spot, I’d bet dollars against donuts Bailey and Stephenson would have both been pulled after 6 innings in favor of the bullpen A team.

      • I get some of that. I guess for me, I see more positives in getting a start of six innings under their belt than with an expanded pen being better than running them out there on a short leash. I would guess it left a worse taste in their mouths than if they had called it quits after six strong. Stretching guys out at the end of the season seems counterintuitive when we’re heading into an offseason. With Castillo, I felt he should have been given the opportunity to earn a win.

    • I think JimW hit the nail on the head.
      Both Bob and Homer hadn’t given up a run yet thru 6. No reason NOT to send them out in the 7th.
      Castillo is just about out of innings, so Price was giving him 2 short starts instead of stretching him out after 90 pitches through 4. Wojo was even warming up in the 2nd inning of that game. So that made it clear that Castillo was in for a short day.

    • You can never leave arroyo out there too long. Lol. He was only throwing 85 mph back then.

  4. It is all Bryan Price’s fault. Even winning is his fault.
    What is it with this Bryan Price guy? Why won’t they fire him?
    He can’t manage baseball, he can’t make out a lineup card, he can’t make any sensible bullpen substitutions, and he can’t make many in-game decisions.
    Given a healthy lineup with the return of Cozart and Schebler, and some healthy pitchers, all Price has done is go 15-14 in August and 3-2 so far in September. Many NLC teams on the September schedule and Boston too. A good barometer for 2018.

    For the “Fire Price” crybabies, shut up, buckle up, pull the belts tight, and strap yourselves in for a wild ride in 2018. The Cubs have regressed, the Cardinals have regressed, Pittsburgh saw no improvement, and the Brewers are folding. The NL Central is there for the taking next season.
    Every team in the NLC will improve their lineups over the winter. So should the Reds. August and September on the field the team will build momentum for 2018. In the winter the front office needs to accelerate the momentum with a trade or two.
    That will mean division title contention in 2018 for Cincinnati.

    • Oh, and I might add, that isn’t too shabby of a record doing it with a still-shedding rust Homer Bailey and 4 rookie pitchers in the rotation. Good job Bryan Price and his coaching staff.

    • Why won’t they fire him? Because everybody complained about a manager who took us to the playoffs 3 out of 4 years. This what you call saving face. Oh, that manager is going to the playoffs again this year.

      It’s better to make the playoffs than to not make the playoffs. Congrats dusty!!!

  5. No injuries next year mean we will be better.How much who knows right now.One things for sure the Cubs with their deep pockets will be active over the winter and the Cards as well.I don’t expect either of these teams to get worse but expect them to get better.If all of the teams improve by ten games we have to improve by 25 to catch them.Not saying it won’t happen just saying we have further to go to catch them because they won’t come back to us.

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