Five days ago, Reds manager Dusty Baker lamented the state of his bullpen. His relievers made 12 appearances in three games in Pittsburgh, and the Reds got nothing out of that except three losses.
The pressure was on the starting pitchers to get the job done this week at Great American Ball Park, and that started with Bronson Arroyo on Monday.
“(Baker) didn’t say he needed a lot out of me,” Arroyo said, “but he said he needed me bad.”
Arroyo gave up two runs in eight innings against the Phillies and set the tone for the rest of the week and the four wins that followed. Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani combined to give up three runs in 28 innings in the first four games of the 10-game homestand. That’s an ERA of 0.96.
There was an even more impressive stat from the three games against the Phillies. Reds pitchers didn’t issue a walk in any of the games. The Reds hadn’t accomplished that since 1933 when they didn’t walk a batter in four straight games. The streak ended Thursday when Cingrani issued three walks.
Entering Friday night’s game, the second of a four-game series against the Marlins, the Reds had lowered their team ERA to 3.72, the 11th-best mark in the big leagues. That’s a long way from the 3.34 ERA the team had in 2012, but the pitching staff has momentum and, like hitting, good pitching is contagious.
“Nobody likes to be outdone,” Baker said. “You get on a roll, and that’s what happens. That just shows how important starting pitching is. It takes the pressure off the bullpen. It starts with the pitchg. The better they’re pitching, the better everyone feels and the sharper your defense is because you’re not walking people. You stay on your toes. Then you feel relaxed about your hitting, too. They work hand in hand.”
Aroldis Chapman was the only Reds reliever to pitch in the first two games against Philadelphia on Monday and Tuesday. Justin Freeman, who was sent back to Triple-A Louisville on Thursday, and Logan Ondrusek each pitched an inning on Wednesday.
Cingrani left Thursday’s game after five innings because he threw 102 pitches, so Baker was able to get work for Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon and Jonathan Broxton. They all pitched scoreless innings.
“The bullpen either goes from overworked to underused,” Baker said. “Rarely is it perfect. We got some guys some innings. Four days ago, we were overworked. (Thursday) we got some guys in just case we need them (Friday) or the next day.”
Marlins at Reds, 1:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410