SAN DIEGO – In an ideal world, Lucas Sims could have come out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen on Thursday against the San Diego Padres.
With the Reds leading 4-2 in the top of the ninth inning, manager David Bell theoretically could have called upon Sims, who leads the Reds with seven saves this season.
Instead, Bell went deeper into his bullpen with a few of the Reds best relief options unavailable.
“We had a few guys tonight that weren’t options because of how much we’ve used them recently,” Bell said. “We just went up against a good team, good hitters. They came through.”
Rookie Ryan Hendrix entered the game in the ninth and had a chance for his first career save. After he allowed a game-tying home run, Amir Garrett followed Hendrix and allowed a two-run walk-off homer.
“We had a few guys that had been pitching so much that we had to stay away from,” Bell said. “Amir was available. We had Ryan start the inning and then Amir behind him. That was the plan from the beginning of the inning.”
Entering Thursday night, Hendrix had only entered two MLB games after the fifth inning when the Reds led by two runs or fewer, and he didn’t have an MLB save. And entering Thursday night, Garrett had a 8.31 ERA in 2021.
Here’s a look at where the bullpen stood entering the game and why Hendrix and Garrett were Bell’s choices to get the save.
Sims entered Thursday night as the most productive reliever in the Reds bullpen behind the injured Tejay Antone. Over his last 11 innings, Sims had allowed just one run with 17 strikeouts. But Sims had pitched in three of the Reds previous four games.
On June 13, Sims threw 20 pitches against the Colorado Rockies and closed the last two innings of the game. Two days later, Sims pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. Then on Wednesday, Sims had four strikeouts in a four-out save to close out the series sweep in Milwaukee.
While Sims was likely the preferred option in the bullpen on Thursday, Sims had thrown 60 pitches in a four-game span. He hadn’t pitched in four games in five days all season.
Just like Sims, Hembree had pitched in three of the Reds previous four games before Thursday. Hembree pitched on three consecutive days against the Rockies and Brewers, and he threw 31 pitches in his most recent outing on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
Recently, Hembree has been saved for high-leverage situations, and he likely would have been a consideration Thursday night if he was fully rested. In each of his last three games, Hembree was one of the setup relievers in a close game where the Reds had the lead.
Hembree hadn’t thrown more than 44 pitches while pitching in three consecutive games all season, and he threw 31 pitches on Tuesday alone in his third game in three days. He also hadn’t pitched in four games in five days in 2021.
Brach has had even more usage than Hembree and Sims over the last week, pitching in four of the Reds last five games.
Entering in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings of games where the Reds had the lead or were tied, Brach has allowed one hit and no runs since June 6.
Brach has pitched over Hendrix in key spots recently, but Brach’s workload over the Reds winning streak was as significant as anyone’s on the team. On Wednesday, Brach threw 17 pitches in a scoreless seventh inning against the Brewers, and he threw a bullpen-high 71 pitches over a five day span entering Thursday night.
Ryan Hendrix and Amir Garrett
As a likely result of Sims, Hembree and Brach’s recent usage, Hendrix took the mound for the top of the ninth on Thursday night. The Padres had two standout right-handed hitters, Manny Machado and Wil Myers, due up in the order.
Bell played the matchups and went with the right-handed Hendrix in the ninth. After Art Warren pitched a hitless eighth inning, Ashton Goudeau was the only other available right-handed reliever in the Reds bullpen. Goudeau has mostly been a long reliever and hasn’t pitched in a game the Reds were leading this season.
Bell planned for Hendrix to face the first three batters of the ninth and then for Garrett to follow him and match up against a left-handed batter and a switch hitter.
Hendrix allowed a walk and then a home run to Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer. Then Garrett entered the game. Left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, who had only pitched two third of an inning over the Reds previous four games, was also in the Reds bullpen. Bell went with Garrett against the left-handed hitter over Doolittle.
While Garrett had also pitched in three of the last four games, he threw five or fewer pitches in two of those outings. Garrett hadn’t allowed a hit in his last three appearances, while Doolittle had a 9.82 ERA in June.
Catcher Tyler Stephenson said Garrett executed his slider to Padres catcher Victor Caratini, but Caratini hit a walk-off home run.
“Ryan Hendrix is going to get that opportunity many more times in his career,” Bell said. “So is Amir. We just went up against a good team, good hitters.”