CINCINNATI – Reds rookie starting pitcher Hunter Greene already had a start this season where he allowed no hits over 7 1/3 innings. On Monday vs. the D-backs, Greene’s performance was even better, and it personified domination.
After a leadoff bunt single in the first inning, Greene retired the next 20 batters in a row and faced a minimum of 21 over seven innings in Cincinnati’s 7-0 victory over Arizona. The game was called with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning because of torrential downpours at Great American Ball Park.
“Pretty remarkable tonight; he was dialed in, “Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said.
Daulton Varsho opened the game with a bunt to the left side on the infield. Greene was first to the ball but had no play and held the ball, and Varsho had an easy single. But as Josh Rojas struck out in the next at-bat, Varsho was caught stealing by Stephenson’s throw to second base.
From there, nothing got in the 22-year-old Greene’s way until the rain began. Over his seven-inning complete game, he struck out eight with no walks.
“We’ve seen some good starts, some great starts from Hunter,” Reds manager David Bell said. “That might have been the best [one]. “
Brandon Drury’s solo homer off Madison Bumgarner in the first inning gave the Reds a 1-0 lead, and they added on with one run in the second inning and Kyle Farmer’s two-out, two-run double in the fifth inning, as well as three more runs in the seventh – including Stephenson’s two-run double.
Here are some Greene tidbits, courtesy of Statcast:
• In a departure from most of his starts, which had a nearly even split between four-seam fastballs and sliders, Greene used his four-seamer for 46 of his 87 pitches (53 percent), while his slider was used 34 times (39 percent) and his changeup seven times (8 percent).
• Greene’s four-seamer did not have its best velocity, but he didn’t really need it as it still averaged 97.4 mph on Monday. He topped out at 99.6 mph to strike out Alek Thomas to open the sixth inning. Of the 25 swings the D-backs attempted on the fastball, they whiffed 12 times.
• No matter what Greene threw, the D-backs did not notch a single hard-hit ball – which Statcast classifies as anything hit with an exit velocity at or above 95 mph. Arizona’s contact averaged 79.5 mph and topped out at 93.3 mph.
“I just didn’t try to do too much tonight,” Greene said, “I just kept it real simple. In some of my past starts, I’ve tried to do a little too much on a pitch. Tonight, I just said, ‘Here it is.’ I simplified it a little bit. Those pitches turned out where they needed to be. “
In the fourth inning, Greene struck out Varsho for the first out with a 99 mph fastball and notched the third out by striking out Ketel Marte with his 57th pitch. In the fifth, he struck out Cooper Hummel with a 98 mph fastball for the second out and finished the frame by getting Jake McCarthy to whiff on an 89 mph slider.
“I think the thing he did best was he [was] like, effectively wild, “Farmer said.” Throwing balls up out of the zone, kind of letting hitters not get comfortable. “
Greene, whose 15 homers allowed rank second in the National League, keyed in on keeping hitters from squaring him up.
“Nobody should have a comfortable at-bat when I’m throwing. I’m just trying to focus on that more,” Greene said. “I’m trying to figure that out about myself. A lot of that comes with how hard I throw. I do a lot of the work. Creating those uncomfortable at-bats and keeping guys off-balanced. I’m starting to figure that out a little bit more. “
It appeared that Greene had some runway to finish the game. His final inning, the seventh, required only five pitches to retire Varsho, Rojas and Marte to leave him with a total of 87.
“I went into the inning thinking, ‘This could be it, this could be his last one,'” Bell said. “But he threw so few pitches in those innings. He could have kept going.”
Across 11 starts in his rookie season, Greene is 3-7 with a 5.40 ERA. But there have been some special moments sprinkled throughout. On May 15 in Pittsburgh, Greene gave up no hits with five walks over 7 1/3 innings. Art Warren replaced him and also didn’t allow a hit, but the Reds took a 1-0 loss when the Pirates scored in the bottom of the eighth.
In his previous start, on Wednesday in Boston, Greene dominated for the first three innings before giving up five hits and four earned runs in the fourth, getting knocked out for a 7-1 loss to the Red Sox.
“My routine stays the same,” Greene said. “I work hard, if not harder, when days like that happen. For me, it’s just continuing to stay in a positive mindset and understand that I’m going to go through my struggles, especially this year. To be able to bounce back and take a lot of pride in that, all that work comes in the days in between, and just keeping that positive mindset. “