Football is often called a “game of inches,” and last night, we all saw how baseball can be, too. Although the Reds (25-44) had plenty of chances to score more than two runs, they were still on the verge of tying the game in the ninth inning with Billy Hamilton on second base and Joey Votto at the plate. Votto roped a line drive down the left-field line that would’ve evened the game and put the go-ahead run at second. But the ball kept tailing and ultimately dropped foul by no more than a foot. Two pitches later, Votto struck out to snap the Reds’ three-game winning streak. The team will hope to have some better luck this afternoon in PNC Park when they take on the Pirates (34-35) for game two of the three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.
I’m afraid I may have jinxed Luis Castillo. I wrote about him two weeks ago and asked the question, “is the 2017 Castillo back?” I concluded that he was getting there, and then he gave up nine runs in 10 2/3 innings in his next two starts. Home runs continue to plague the second-year pitcher, who has allowed 15 on the season. Only five pitchers have allowed more in all of baseball. Command and control both continue to b problems for Castillo. He’s walked 14 in 26 2/3 innings (12.2 BB%) and has hit the strike zone only 40.6% of the time (league average: 43.2%).
Fortunately, Castillo’s raw stuff hasn’t seemed to diminish. His strikeout numbers remain strong, as he tied his career-high (10) in his last outing against the Cardinals He’s also fourth among all qualified pitchers in swinging-strike rate (14.6%) and trails only Max Scherzer and Chris Sale in overall contact rate (69.1%). It’s just a matter of recapturing his command (or perhaps recapturing the extra one or two miles per hour on his fastball).
Castillo vs. Pirates
The last time the Reds saw Ivan Nova, they roughed him up for five runs (four earned) and seven hits, including two home runs, in 5 1/3 innings. That capped off a horrific stretch for the veteran, who had allowed 25 runs (20 earned) in his last 23 2/3 innings before hitting the disabled list shortly thereafter. He missed just over two weeks with a sprained right middle finger and returned to the Pirates’ starting rotation on Sunday. Nova looked like his early-season self in his first game back, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball with eight strikeouts.
That’s not the Nova to expect on most nights, however. He’s a pitcher who relies heavily on control rather than punching hitters out, having walked only 6.4% of batters he’s faced in his career and boasting a walk rate of less than 5.0% in the last three seasons. Without getting many strikeouts, though, Nova relies heavily on his defense and limiting hard contact. He hasn’t been successful at the latter this season. Among all pitchers with 200 or more batted balls against them, Nova has the highest average exit velocity allowed (91.2 mph). Not surprisingly, he’s allowed 10 home runs in just 67 1/3 innings this season as well.
Scouting report: Nova is a four-pitch pitcher who relies primarily on his sinker and four-seamer, which both average around 93 mph. He also mixes in a changeup, which gets the most swings and misses (19.3 SwStr%) and a curveball, which is his best pitch. Batters are hitting .145/.145/.327 against the breaking ball this season and whiffing 15.4% of the time it’s thrown. While Nova has been burned by home runs the last two years, he’s primarily a groundball pitcher as a sinker-baller. Among all pitchers with 60 or more innings this year, only eight have gotten more grounders than Nova (52.3 GB%).
Nova vs. Reds
- Billy Hamilton is back in the lineup as Adam Duvall sits. The outfield rotation should probably just be between them at this point.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 16, 2018
Column: Billy Hamilton could play a high-impact role for some team… but not the Reds. https://t.co/PSyJGqB8Bd
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 16, 2018
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticCIN) June 16, 2018
Cincinnati #Reds Minor League Game Review: 6/15/18
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) June 16, 2018
Stat of the Day
Mike Trout has already been worth a ridiculous 5.9 fWAR this season. He’s on pace for one of the best years in baseball history. Since 1990, only eight Reds players have eclipsed that mark in an entire season, with Votto and Barry Larkin each responsible for three of those campaigns.
When was the last time a Reds player even broke 5.0 fWAR in the first half of a season? 1987, when the great Eric Davis hit .321/.413/.694 with 27 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 74 (!) games, worthy of a 5.1 fWAR.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.