CINCINNATI — Simply put, no Nick Castellanos for the Cincinnati Reds —and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes made them go, or rather fall, completely flat.
Indeed, already one series after the All-Star break, what a difference a weekend makes —and what a sour Sunday taste left in the Reds’ mouths.
For those representing Scioto County as part of Portsmouth Day (see related story) at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, they got to see what started out as a classic pitcher’s duel turned into a Brewers’ midway runaway from the Reds on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon — in front of an announced attendance of 29,000.
That’s because Burnes tossed a near complete-game, five-hit, one-walk and dozen-strikeout gem —and spearheaded the final third of an impactful and trilogic weekend sweep, as Milwaukee won with an easy 8-0 shutout.
With the Reds missing three-hole hitter and first-time MLB All-Star Castellanos for the final two games of the crucial National League Central series, Burnes wasn’t about to let them catch fire — like Castellanos had been on.
Entering Sunday, and through his 85 games, he is the Reds’ leader in batting average (.330), hits (111), doubles (29) and runs batted in (59) — and tied for second in home runs (18).
But on Friday night, Brewers starting pitcher Adrian Houser hit Castellanos with a pitch on the wrist —and he has been sidelined since.
With his bat silenced, so have been the Reds —which only had five hits on Saturday night in a 7-4 setback —before only five more against Burnes besides a game-opening leadoff walk by Jonathan India.
From there, he retired 10 consecutive and 12 of the next 13 —as Joey Votto singled with one out in the fourth as Tyrone Taylor almost made a nice diving catch in right field to rob Votto of that hit.
Burnes retired the Reds 1-2-3 in innings two, three, seven and eight —including striking out the side in the third.
Before Votto’s at-bat, the Reds’ other All-Star —Jesse Winker —flied out to the wall in left field.
Tucker Barnhart and India singled to center to lead off the fifth and sixth respectively, but Burnes got the final three outs in the fifth from there —before inducing Winker to hit into a 3-6-3 double play and striking out Votto for his eighth K to end the sixth.
In the ninth, and with one out, Winker singled, Votto reached on the Brewers’ only error, and Tyler Naquin notched an infield hit.
Angel Perdomo then relieved Burnes after his bulldog eight and one-third innings with 108 pitches and 31 Reds faced, as Perdomo struck out the only two Reds he saw to end the game.
It was Burnes’ first outing since he was the losing pitcher for the National League in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, when he pitched two innings and allowed two runs —including Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 468-foot home run blast.
On Sunday, he didn’t allow a Red beyond first base until Cincinnati loaded them up in the aforementioned ninth.
“He’s (Burnes) been good all year, and he just settled in and shut us down completely offensively,” said Cincinnati manager David Bell. “You have to give him a lot of credit.”
The Reds’ offensive woes put that much more pressure on starter Sonny Gray, who was just activated off the 10-day IL prior to Sunday’s start.
Gray gave it a go, but eventually ran out of gas just one pitch shy of an even 100.
He went 4 2/3 innings and faced 25 Brewer batters, allowing five runs which were all earned on six hits, four walks and two hit batsmen.
He struck out six, and had stranded five through the first four innings, before the Brewers began to get two-out baserunners aboard in the fifth — sandwiched around a Luis Urias single and an error in centerfield.
With Milwaukee leading 1-0 and Urias on second, Gray got no assistance from home plate umpire Lance Barrett on back-to-back Brewer at-bats —which resulted in walks to Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez, as Gray, the Reds and their faithful didn’t get the final-pitch strike call on either.
And, walks of course almost always lead to runs —which they did again as Urias and Adames scored on a two-run single to left by Taylor before Tellez and Taylor tallied on a two-run single to right by Jackie Bradley Jr.
“Sonny was able to compete mainly with his fastball, but he didn’t have best breaking ball. He got us to that point in the game (fifth inning) after settling in well after the first inning,” said Bell. “We’ve seen Sonny do that many times where he has competed and kept going and gotten out of an inning. Letting him work through that inning was the decision we made.”
Gray (2-5) didn’t close strong, and didn’t exactly start that way either.
The Brewers’ opening inning included an earned run scored by Urias, who singled to left and combined that with two hit batsmen, a stolen base and a walk to Adames.
In the seventh, Milwaukee got two more hits off reliever Cionel Perez — including Christian Yelich’s solo home run to centerfield for a 6-0 lead.
In the ninth, the Brewers bopped Tony Santillan for two more runs and an 8-0 advantage —on a Yelich single and a two-run home run by Adames.
That held up for the final score, as the now 48-45 Reds —which won nine of 11 entering the All-Star break including the final three of a four-game set in Milwaukee last weekend — looked listless for most of this series, and fell to a full seven games behind the Brewers (56-39) for the NL Central lead.
The injury-riddled Reds returned home on Monday night as part of their nine-game homestand, and hosted the NL East-leading New York Mets for the first of another three important contests.
Despite the sweep to the first-place Brewers, and the weekend’s ground giveback from a weekend ago in Milwaukee, Bell still has “great confidence in this team”.
“I have confidence in every single player on this team. We’ve shown it over and over again, just continuing to play. It was a tough weekend obviously, but what makes good teams is coming back and bouncing back and I have no doubt that’s going to happen,” he said. “We just have to continue to stay positive and stay the course and continue to work. We have a long way to go.”
It’s just too bad that they fell this flat on Portsmouth Day of all days.
* * *
Milwaukee 100 040 102 — 8 11 1
Cincinnati 000 000 000 —0 5 1
W — Corbin Burnes (5-4); L — Sonny Gray (2-5)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved