Reds pitchers have worked overtime in the last five days with two 13-inning games and a 10-inning game, but their arms can’t be any more tired than the guys who flip the Kroger strikeout poster boards in the upper deck of the left-field stands.
The Reds are on an epic strikeout roll. They had six strikeouts Wednesday in a 1-0 victory over the Cubs at Great American Ball Park, but their average of 9.3 strikeouts per game through Tuesday ranked 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 struck out at least 10 batters in six straight games. That streak, two games better than the old mark, ended Wednesday.
For the second time in team history, the Reds 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) 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 got the win Wednesday with four strikeouts in seven innings. He leads the team with 33 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. Homer Bailey has 26 Ks in 25 innings.
Aroldis Chapman has been his usual dominant self, fanning 20 in 11 1/3 innings. He picked up his fourth save with a perfect ninth Wednesday.
“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.”
Corky’s return: Corky Miller had an up-and-down day Tuesday in his first big league game since 2010. He struck out twice, and the Cubs stole four bases. He also guided Tony Cingrani through seven innings of two-run baseball.
“I’ve been around these guys a long time,” he said. “I’ve had some of them for roommates. Obviously, you’re in the big leagues, and it’s a great place to be, but for me, I had one job to do and that was to help Tony get through seven.”
Looking ahead: The Reds begin a four-game series at Washington tonight and then play three at St. Louis. They’re in the midst of playing 20 games in 20 days and won’t get an off day until May 2.
“I told everyone this was going to be one of the toughest stretches before we ever started,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Let’s not lose sight of where we are. In April, I’ve never played 20 in a row. Usually, that’s for midseason or something. Nobody’s pitching is ready for that.”