Reds pitchers have worked overtime in the last few days with two 13-inning games and a 10-inning game, but their arms can’t be any more tired than the guys flipping the Kroger strikeout poster boards in the upper deck of the left-field stands.
The Reds are on an epic strikeout roll. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Cubs, they were averaging 9.3 strikeouts per game, second only to the Red Sox (9.8).
There have been so many Ks, you might think all the Reds pitchers grew up in Kankakee, Ill.
“I think it’s pretty crazy,” said reliever Sam LeCure, who has 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. “I haven’t seen strikeouts like that in a while. I don’t know when. Not here. It feels like we have 15 a game.”
For the first time in the franchise’s modern era, since 1900, the team has struck out at least 10 batters in six straight games. That’s two games better than the old mark.
For the second time in team history, they struck out at least 13 batters in three straight games: 14 against the Marlins on Sunday and 16 and 13 in the first two games against the Cubs.
Fans will come to expect free LaRosa’s pizza as their birthright. The local chain gives fans with ticket stubs a free small pizza anytime the Reds strike out at least 11 batters.
The fans start chanting, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” when the Reds get the 10th strikeout.
“I don’t care about the pizza deal,” LeCure said. “The pizza deal (ticks) me off. I hear the fans. Logan (Ondrusek’s) goes 3-2 on a guy, and he walks him, and they’re booing him because they’re hollering for pizza. That bothers me.”
Mat Latos leads the team with 29 strikeouts in 26 innings. Homer Bailey has 26 Ks in 25 innings. Aroldis Chapman has been his usual dominant self, fanning 19 batters in 10 1/3 innings.
“It’s been pretty neat,” LeCure said. “Devin (Mesoraco) said it pretty good the other day. We’re just going out there and continuing to execute good pitches, and we’ve got guys with nasty stuff, guys with different types of nasty. The Chapman nasty. The J.J. (Hoover) they can’t see it type of nasty. Ondrusek’s got his cutter. We’ve got a lot of different looks from guys with good arms.”
Strikeouts are good and bad, though. Pitchers have to work harder for a strikeout than they do for a groundball out. Tony Cingrani struck out nine on Tuesday, and catcher Corky Miller said that’s not always want they wanted to do because it takes five or six pitches sometimes to get a strikeout.
Cingrani’s pitch count didn’t get too high (99 in seven innings), though, because he had some quick innings.
“I’m impressed by (the strikeouts),” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That means you’re throwing a lot of pitches, though. I’m not impressed we have an equal number of strikeouts. That’s unimpressive.”
Reds hitters are tied for second in baseball with 177 strikeouts. That’s 8.4 strikeouts per game. Last year, they averaged 7.8 per game.