SAN DIEGO –– Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell had done it before a few times this season, but never quite like this. He’d taken his starting pitcher out of the game earlier than he needed to in an attempt to spark the offense, but never this early.
The aggressive move in the fourth inning didn’t pay off in the Reds' 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
“I tried to keep the inning going, see if we could extend that opportunity right there and get back to the top of our order,” manager David Bell said. “Try to score.”
The Reds trailed by one run in the top of the fourth. With two runners on base and two outs, Bell pinch-hit for starting pitcher Tony Santillan, who had thrown only 53 pitches. Bell hoped pinch-hitter Shogo Akiyama could tie the score with a base hit, but Akiyama struck out in the Reds best chance to tie the game.
Bell had recently established a trend of letting his starting pitchers go deep into the game. Just one day earlier, Wade Miley threw 102 pitches against San Diego.
Santillan threw nearly half as many pitches against the Padres on Friday. He became the first Reds starter this year who wasn’t hurt to exit the game with 53 pitches or fewer.
“(If) he goes back out, he could have given us two more innings potentially,” Bell said. “So he’ll be a little more rested for his next outing.”
Santillan wasn’t as effective as he was in his MLB debut last week, but he escaped trouble. Even though nearly half of his pitches in the first two innings were balls and even though he allowed two early solo home runs, the Reds only trailed 3-2 when he left the game.
Over three innings, Santillan allowed three runs and four hits. Santillan stood in the on-deck circle in the top of the fourth, but Akiyama replaced him before Santillan stepped up to the plate.
“It was three innings, and Tony threw strikes,” Bell said. “He allowed the homers, but you certainly can’t judge one start, let alone just three innings … I think there’s always something to take from each start, something to learn. Something good will come out of this for Tony.”
After Santillan left the game, on the last pitch of a four-pitch at-bat, Akiyama's back foot left the ground on an inning-ending strikeout that stranded two runners on base.
Long reliever Ashton Goudeau followed Santillan out of the bullpen, and the Reds trailed by three runs when they went back up to the plate. In the fourth inning, Goudeau threw 33 pitches and had more balls than strikes as San Diego scored two runs.
“With Ashton there, he had been well-rested, we knew we had several innings that he would be able to give us and see if we could get back into the game,” Bell said. “Then get to the back end of the bullpen and kind of see where we are. So we took a chance.”
With the Reds offense kept in check by the opposing team’s starting pitcher for the fourth consecutive game, Bell’s decision in the top of the fourth gave Cincinnati its best chance to tie the game. But Padres starting pitcher Chris Paddack allowed only two runs over five innings.
“From where I’m sitting in the dugout, the stuff that really the last two guys had against us was pretty impressive,” Bell said. “I think tonight, (Paddack) was really good. You’ve got to give him credit. I think that was a big part of tonight.”