Four games into the season, it didn’t seem likely that this would be a season for the ages in Cincinnati, for all the wrong reasons. Top prospect Hunter Greene — the 22-year-old right-hander with a 100 mph fastball — made his Reds debut and over five exhilarating innings he flashed triple digits on an incredible 20 pitches against the Atlanta Braves, plus another 16 fastballs that rounded up to 100. He struck out two batters in each of the first three innings, five of those on swinging strikes, including three on fastballs. While he tired in the fifth inning, serving up two home runs, Greene finished with seven strikeouts and picked up the win in Cincinnati’s 6-3 victory.
The Reds had gone 2-2 in that opening series against the defending World Series champions and after a controversial whirlwind of deals following the end of the MLB lockout — when the franchise traded away Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, officially lost Nick Castellanos in free agency, then acquired veteran left-handed starter Mike Minor and signed outfielder Tommy Pham — it was reasonable to think maybe the Reds weren’t going to be so bad after all. Probably not a playoff team, but in the National League Central? Hey, anything can happen.
Indeed, they still had Joey Votto, two quality starting pitchers in Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo, reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India and second-year catcher Tyler Stephenson, who had finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Nick Lodolo, another prized pitching prospect, would make his first major league start a few days after Greene’s debut.
That was the plan: Hope the young pitching developed quickly enough to give the Reds a playoff-caliber rotation, hope Votto had another big year in him and hope some of the young bats would improve.
The plan has not worked. The Reds are bad … potentially historically bad. After that 2-2 start, they lost 19 of their next 20 games. Only one of those 19 losses came by one run; seven of them came by at least five runs. In his fifth major league start, Greene tied a franchise record when he allowed five home runs. He’s now 1-5 with a 7.62 ERA and has served up 11 home runs in just 26 innings. Through Wednesday, the team’s ERA was 6.61, which would rank second worst since 1900 behind only the 1930 Phillies (of note, the entire NL hit .303 that year compared to .236 this year).