On Tuesday, the Reds headed to Kansas City for their second taste of interleague play. In their first interleague series, they came away with two wins against Minnesota, with two of the wins that produced both solid pitching and hitting. The Reds continued their success against the American League with a two-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals.
In the quick two-game series, the Reds did something that has been rare in Cincinnati. Their pitching staff held the Royals to just one run over the course of the series.
The first of two fine pitching performances started on Tuesday when Sal Romano took the mound. Despite Romano not getting the win, he did enough to hold the Royals to one run over eight innings, keeping the Reds loose enough to eventually come back and win.
Romano did not have a dominant start necessarily, but seeing a pitcher nearly go the distance was a refreshing sight to see from a Cincinnati starter, as he became the only starter to complete eight innings. Romano struck out only two batters throughout his eight innings, but the balls that were hit in play often found the Reds’ gloves. He allowed only two hits, one of which ended up in the stands off the bat of Hunter Dozier, and only one walk in his solid outing.
On the other side of the plate, the Reds struggled to find any success in the first eight innings, collecting only three hits in that span. After being shutout the whole game, Tucker Barnhart connected with a solo shot to right. His home run is even more impressive considering Kelvin Herrera has been one of the most dominant closers with an earned run average under one before the blown save.
Following a quick inning from David Hernandez, the Reds really started to find their swing. Jose Peraza led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error from Mike Moustakas. After a failed attempt to move Peraza over from Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler was able to advance Peraza to third with a single. Then Tucker Barnhart hit a grounder to the pitcher, resulting in some acrobatic moves from Hamilton to get out of a pickle and load the bases. After loading the bases, Joey Votto hit a line drive to right center for a three-run triple that gave the Reds the lead. The Reds tacked on one more from a base hit from Eugenio Suarez, scoring Votto. Amir Garrett came on in the tenth and continued his dominance out of the pen with a quick three up three down.
On Wednesday, Tyler Mahle produced another gem on the mound. Mahle has arguably been the Reds most consistent starter, and after his last start he is the only Reds’ starter to have an ERA under four. The story was nearly the same in Mahle’s start as it was in Romano’s. Mahle struck out only one Royals’ hitter in his six and a third innings, but opposing hitters could not make solid contact as he allowed only three hits. Garrett retired the only batter he faced, before bringing out Jared Hughes to finish the seventh. Hughes continued his great season, recording two outs in the eighth before Wandy Peralta retired the only batter he faced. After the first three Reds hitters reached base in the ninth inning, Duvall sent a rocket into the seats, his third career grand slam, extending the Reds lead to seven. In the bottom of the frame, Raisel Iglesias allowed a double to Jorge Soler, but was perfect besides that in completing the two-game sweep.
What This Series Means
The series in Kansas City showed what this team is capable of. The Royals are not a great team, this series does not mean the club has figured it out finally, but it shows what the club is capable of if they can get a quality start with their pitching. The Reds have three of the best hitters in the MLB in Votto, Suarez and Scooter Gennett. The latter two are the two leading run producers in the National League. When a team has three players hitting at that high of a level, it is disheartening to be eight games back from the fourth place team. It does not help that every team in the NL Central that plays outside of Cincinnati is above .500, besides the sliding Pittsburgh Pirates
The rebuild has been hard to watch for the patient Reds’ fans, but the offense is showing that they could have it figured out, and should only get better as hitters mature and top prospect Nick Senzel joins the club at some point. If the pitching can show improvement similar to the series in Kansas City, the Reds will compete in the NL Central, next year, of course.
The Reds begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday. Matt Harvey will take the mound in game one hoping to continue trying to revive his career. Luis Castillo will get the ball on Saturday, where he will see if he can keep trending upward, and Anthony DeSclafani will pitch Sunday, which will be the 28-year old veteran’s third start since returning from an extended stint on the disabled list. The key to watch this series is the pitching. Castillo and DeSclani are a part of the future core of the Reds staff and will be looking to continue the streak of quality performances from the Reds starters.