Castillo’s gem wasted by no-show offense in Reds loss to Brewers

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 03: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on April 3, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 03: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on April 3, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Luis Castillo followed up his strong Opening Day start with perhaps the best outing of his career on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cincinnati right-hander allowed just one hit and four walks with nine strikeouts in seven innings against Milwaukee.

“That was a big start for him,” Reds manager Dave Bell said. “I’m very happy for him. He’s had two big starts on this home stand. He might’ve been better than Opening Day, which is saying something.”

»MCCOY: Reds off to slow start ... but it’s early

Unlike last Thursday, when the Reds made Castillo’s effort pay off with a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati’s batters mustered an even less-effective effort against Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta. The right-hander, roughed up for six hits, three walks and four runs in three innings of his start against St. Louis last Friday, allowed just two hits with 11 strikeouts in eight innings as the Brewers completed a three-game sweep with a 1-0 win before 13,439 fans.

The Reds, who were hitting a National League-worst .183 going into the game, couldn’t get a runner past first base against Peralta. He retired 20 straight batters between Eugenio Suarez’s leadoff single in the second and Curt Casali’s two-out single in the eighth inning. When the Reds weren’t striking out, they were flying out. They didn’t hit a groundball out in the game until Suarez grounded into a game-ending forceout.

Cincinnati’s starting outfield of Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker went into the game a combined 0-for-31 in 2019 and compounded their issues by teaming up to go 0-for-10 with five strikeouts – three by Schebler – before Kemp grounded a single to left field to push pinch-runner Michael Lorenzen from first to third with two outs in the ninth.

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“I’ve been playing too long to be frustrated after four or five games,” Kemp said. “It’s still early. We have lots of time. I’m not too worried about us hitting. This was a big home stand. Everybody was excited and riled up. We’ve just got to calm down.”

The Reds, who lost the first two games of the series by identical 4-3 scores, have lost three consecutive games by one run each for the first time since 2016. They are 1-4 this season after opening last season with five losses in their first six games.

They are 6-16 over the last two seasons against the Brewers, the defending National League Central Division champions. Milwaukee has six shutouts against Cincinnati in that span.

»PHOTOS: Reds fall to Brewers, 4-3

The decisive difference between Peralta and Castillo was a balk caused by an apparent communications breakdown that led to the game’s only run. First baseman Jesus Aguilar, who has 14 stolen bases in 12 professional seasons and none in six major league seasons, drew a one-out walk in the second inning. Castillo turned to attempt a pickoff throw, but Joey Votto wasn’t holding Aguilar on and Castillo held on to the ball. Aguilar went to second on the balk and scored on Manny Pina’s single to center.

“He saw Aguilar break and reacted, even though he knew we weren’t holding him on,” Bell said.

“Aguilar was on first base,” Castillo said. “He got off to a big lead. I saw that and I tried to pick him off. That was my fault. I lost the game in that inning right there.”

The Reds lost by a 1-0 score at Great American Ball Park for the first time since Aug. 26, 2017, when pitcher Gerritt Cole hit a home run in a 1-0 Pirates win. The 1-0 final was the 23rdin the 17-year history of Great American Ball Park. The shutout loss was Cincinnati’s second in five games this season.

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