PITTSBURGH –– New Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luke Weaver waited 10 months for the opportunity he got on Thursday.
He spent most of the 2022 season in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ bullpen, waited in free agency for a team to give him a shot to be a starting pitcher and stayed patient through a minor forearm injury during Reds’ spring training this year.
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Weaver, a former top prospect who’s now an eight-year veteran, has been anticipating Thursday’s game for a while. It was his Reds’ debut and the first chance for the 29-year-old starting pitcher to show that he can still have a long career ahead of him.
Then in the first inning at PNC Park, Weaver allowed four runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates went on to beat the Reds, 4-3. Weaver was spectacular after the first inning, but he left two fastballs right over the middle of the plate on two home runs by Pittsburgh in the first.
After the first inning, Weaver showed why the Reds signed him. He got just about every Pirates batter with a changeup that dropped into the dirt at the last second. Weaver struck out eight batters, and he pitched six innings to help out a bullpen that has had to cover a lot of innings over the last week.
The Reds are counting on Weaver to provide some consistency and some depth behind the trio of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft. Weaver showed flashes on Thursday that he can become that pitcher for the Reds, but his slow start was too much for a struggling Reds’ offense to overcome.
The Pirates only had one hit after the first inning, but the Reds still didn’t come back in the game.
Takeaways from Reds vs. Pirates
1. During the first two weeks of the season, the Reds offense developed a good reputation for working tough at-bats, delivering in two-strike counts and succeeding with a small ball approach. Recently, the Reds haven’t played that way. The Reds went 24 innings without scoring a run, ranging from the start of Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays through the top of the seventh inning on Thursday.
Reds first baseman Jason Vosler snapped that streak with an RBI single. The Reds rallied in the eighth, taking advantage of some timely singles and poor Pirates defense. The Reds got the tying run to third base, but catcher Tyler Stephenson ended the inning with a strikeout on three pitches.
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2. Reds manager David Bell shook up the lineup on Thursday, moving Spencer Steer to the No. 3 spot and Stephenson to the No. 5 spot. The Reds were able to bunch their hottest hitters next to each other at the top of the lineup in Jonathan India, TJ Friedl and Steer, but it didn’t immediately turn around the offense.
3. Bell called a hit-and-run to spark the offense, and it ended up as another bad break for a reeling offense. The play in the sixth inning started with TJ Friedl striking out. Then, as India tried to steal second, Friedl clipped feet in the batter’s box with Pirates catcher Austin Hedges. India was called out on batter’s interference, and the rally was over.
Stat of the day
The Reds’ 24 inning scoreless streak was their longest one since August 2020. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Reds have had five scoreless streaks of 20-or-more innings. The longest one was early in the 2019 season when the Reds went 30 innings in April without scoring a run.