ST. LOUIS –– In the top of the sixth inning on Friday night, St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was set on keeping Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto from changing the game.
In a game the Cardinals went on to win, 2-0, at Busch Stadium, Marmol faced a crucial decision in the sixth. He pulled starting pitcher Andre Pallante with one out in the inning, and Marmol could have brought in a right-handed relief pitcher or a left-handed relief pitcher.
If Marmol brought in a right-hander, there was a greater chance for Votto to get an extra-base hit. But the Reds had four right-handed hitters behind Votto in the lineup, so there was also a better chance in this scenario for the Cardinals reliever to retire the rest of the Reds’ batters.
If Marmol brought in a left-hander, then the Cardinals would have a greater chance of getting Votto out. But the Reds would also put their right-handed hitters behind Votto in a better position.
Marmol brought left-handed reliever Génesis Cabrera out of the bullpen, and Cabrera got Votto to ground out. Then Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer grounded out, and the inning was over. Despite all of the right-handed hitters in the Reds’ lineup, Cabrera stayed in the game to pitch the seventh inning. He added another perfect inning without facing a single left-handed hitter.
“He came in for Joey right there, and we knew once they had the two runs how they’d get through the game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We figured he’d be in the mix. Their bullpen is tough when they get into that spot.”
On Friday, the Reds were missing most of their best right-handed hitters, including several who could have been a greater threat in the sixth. If catcher Tyler Stephenson hadn’t broken his thumb, then maybe Marmol considers using a right-handed reliever to face the middle of the Reds’ lineup.
Stephenson was out, Reds center fielder Senzel wasn’t in the starting lineup due to a back strain and Reds right fielder Albert Almora Jr. was out with a shoulder injury. Farmer has hit well this season against left-handed pitchers. But behind Farmer in the order, the Reds had four bench players in Matt Reynolds, Alejo Lopez (a switch-hitter), Aquino and Aramis Garcia.
Bell has had Stephenson bat fifth all season to protect Votto in the order. With a hitter of Stephenson’s caliber behind Votto, opposing pitchers have thrown more strikes to Votto to prevent putting another runner on base for Stephenson.
And when Stephenson and more consistent right-handed hitters like Senzel and Almora Jr. were batting behind Votto, there was more risk in putting a right-handed reliever in the game against the middle of the Reds lineup.
In the first inning, the Reds loaded the bases on a single and two walks by Pallante, but that was the only scoring chance they got against the Cardinals’ starting pitcher. Reynolds lined out to right field to end that inning, and the Reds didn’t have another runner reach third base until there were two outs in the eighth inning.
“We were obviously prepared but he’s a really different look,” Bell said. “He has a really good arm. The board was saying 96 or 97 (mph) but it looked like 110 from my angle. It was the first time we’ve seen him, and it was a great start.”
The first Cardinals’ run of the inning scored when a routine throw from Reds right fielder Aquino to first baseman Joey Votto sailed to Votto’s left. The second run of the inning scored when Reds third baseman Brandon Drury made a throwing error on a routine ground ball.
“Those are just things that are part of the game,” Castillo said via interpreter Jorge Merlos. “Obviously, no one is perfect, no one is going to be perfect. What I’m glad about is we were able to battle today, able to get through those innings and we’re healthy and able to battle.”
After the Reds allowed two runs on errors in the first inning, Castillo didn’t allow another one the rest of the way. He threw 102 pitches in six innings and used a slightly different approach from his previous starts.
Castillo made his slider his go-to pitch and increased his slider usage as the game went on. He only got three strikeouts, but he consistently forced groundouts that limited damage.
“The slider, obviously, we used it more than we’ve done in the past,” Castillo said. “Sometimes you have to make those adjustments whatever the situation that’s going on during the game. Maybe the changeup wasn’t the best as we thought it would be. We went to the slider and it worked out.”
In the top of the eighth inning, the Reds loaded the bases on three walks against Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who got Kyle Farmer to pop out to end the inning.
“They had a really good start and they threw good relievers at us,” Bell said. “The times that we did hit the ball hard were right at their outfielders. It made it tough to get anything going.”