The Cincinnati Reds haven’t lost a series since being swept by the Cardinals on April 25th. After ending their ugly seven game losing streak, the Reds have either tied or won their last four series including earning the split in the rain-shortened trip to Cleveland this weekend.
Cincy will continue their road trip after Sunday’s rain-out with a three-game set beginning Monday night in Pittsburgh before heading to Colorado for a four-game series with the Rockies. The pitching rotation will remain in tact against the Pirates with Tyler Mahle, Sunday’s scheduled starter, taking the ball on Monday followed by Jeff Hoffman and Sonny Gray.
The unplanned day off on Sunday will be met with welcoming arms inside the Reds clubhouse as they embark on a stretch of 14 games in 14 days before a scheduled off day on Monday, May 24th.
Wade Miley No-Hitter
Welcome to the history books, Wade Miley. The veteran left-hander became just the 17th pitcher in Cincinnati Reds franchise history to throw a no-hitter, and the first since Homer Bailey on July 2nd, 2013 against the San Francisco Giants.
Known as one of the fastest workers in baseball, Miley controlled the tempo on the mound and pounded the strike zone all night long to the tune of 72 strikes out of 114 pitches. Per usual, Miley relied heavily on his cutter and changeup, but he did turn to the fastball more than he has in any game yet this season.
Miley induced 15 ground balls on the 20 balls in play allowed and only four registered as hard-hit (95 MPH exit velocity or higher). If you ever dreamed up a scenario where Wade Miley threw a no-hitter, the performance on Friday night in Cleveland is exactly what you would envision. It truly was the quintessential Miley game.
As you can see from the pitch chart, the 34-year-old pounded right handers inside with the cutter and went away with the changeup. Also, the overwhelming majority of his pitchers were either right on the paint or just outside the zone to entice the batter to chase.
Miley only broke 90 MPH seven times but used change of speed and pinpoint location to record eight strikeouts to just one walk on his historic night. He is now 4-2 on the season with a 2.00 earned run average.
The great performance on the bump almost was wasted as the Redlegs couldn’t muster a single run off of Cleveland starter Zach Plesac. At one time, Plesac retired 15 consecutive batters on his way to throwing eight shutout innings of his own while allowing just three hits. Luckily, the Reds got on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth inning off of closer Emmanuel Clase to give Wade Miley an opportunity to complete his brilliant performance with a win.
The top of the ninth inning began with Nick Senzel reaching first base on an infield single that ricocheted off of Clase’s foot towards third baseman Jose Ramirez who was unable to make the play. Jesse Winker then lined one the opposite way to left field to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The Reds went on to receive some good fortune as Nick Castellanos lightly tapped one back to the pitcher, just 55 MPH off the bat, but Clase threw the ball away at second base which allowed Senzel to score on the throwing error. It was just the second run Cincinnati had scored in 27 innings.
Mike Moustakas added a pair of insurance runs on a single that scored both Winker and Castellanos to give the Reds and Wade Miley a 3-0 advantage heading into the bottom of the frame.
Miley needed just eight pitches to complete his no-hitter in the ninth. Rene Rivera was the first out lining to Castellanos in right field. Then, Cesar Hernandez was punched out on three consecutive strikes for the second out of the inning. Finally, Jordan Luplow, who also made the last out when the Indians were no-hit by Carlos Rodon of the White Sox on April 15th, grounded out to Kyle Farmer to incite the Reds celebration.
You just watched history, folks?? pic.twitter.com/9Gc76FiiWn
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 8, 2021
Luis Castillo’s Struggles Continue
For as pleasant of a surprise Wade Miley has been this season, Opening Day starter Luis Castillo has been just as big of a disappointment. The 28-year-old Castillo has flashed ace level stuff throughout his career and delivered as such the last two seasons in Cincinnati. However, there has been serious regression through seven starts in 2021.
The biggest problem for Castillo this season has been his inability to make batters miss. Typically a pitcher who gets a lot of swings and misses, Castillo’s whiff rate (20.4%) and strikeout rate (16.8%) are down drastically to career-worst marks. Both numbers rank in the 15th percentile across all of Major League Baseball.
On Saturday against the Indians, Castillo only got three swings and misses on 46 chances on his way to allowing six runs on five hits in just four innings of work. Castillo has recorded just 26 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings this season with an ugly 1-4 record and 6.42 earned run average.
If you are searching for the bright side, there is reason to believe that the hard-throwing right-hander will progress to the mean yet this season. First of all, his fastball velocity continues to rise with each start. On Saturday, his fastball sat at 96.6 miles per hour with a high of 98. He must begin to locate it better so hitters aren’t so comfortable barreling it up, but ramping up the velocity will generally lead to better success. Additionally, Castillo’s .357 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is exceedingly high which points to some good old fashioned bad luck. As that presumably trends towards his career average of .288 it will lead to more successful starts.
Castillo has improved his walk rate, down to a career best 6.5%, so you could argue that he might even be finding the strike zone a little too much. At the very least he must start to pinpoint his locations much better so as to give up less hard contact. Opposing batters have a 37.6% hard hit rate so far this season which is higher than the league average. When you see a heat map like the one shown above from Saturday’s game you can see why hitters are having so much success against Castillo. Far too many pitches are being left over the plate.
For the Reds to compete for the postseason they simply have to get more out of Luis Castillo. He may not live up to the preseason Cy Young award buzz, but he at least needs to be a consistent, top of the rotation arm. Again, seven starts is a small sample size and there are some statistical reasons to be optimistic that improvement will come. Castillo’s next scheduled start is Friday night at Coors Field against the Rockies. More hard contact could get ugly in the thin air as balls have a tendency to fly out of the park in Denver.
Rain Rain, Go Away
Sunday’s rainout in Cleveland cut the Ohio Cup series short pushing back the Reds opportunity to take the trophy back to Cincinnati. The final game of the season series has been rescheduled for August 9th in Cleveland in between a Sunday home game with the Pirates and a trip to Atlanta on Tuesday.
If the Reds win, they will take the season series four games to two and win the Ohio Cup. However, a loss and series split would allow the Indians to keep the trophy as a tie goes to the team that currently holds ownership of the cup.