July 1, 2022

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Analyzing Lodolo's up-and-down debut

4 min read
Cincinnati's No. 2 prospect strikes out 4, but allows 5 runs in loss
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CINCINNATI — No matter what, achieving a lifelong dream to reach the big leagues will always be special for Reds pitching prospect Nick Lodolo. It did not go well, though, during a 7-3 loss to the Guardians at Great American Ball Park as the Reds were swept in the two-game series.

Over his four innings, Lodolo allowed five earned runs, seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts before departing with a 5-0 deficit.

“Not the result I was looking for,” Lodolo said. “Other than that, I’ll go back and look at video, look at what I did do good, take that away and just build off of what we need to do for next time.”

Here’s an inning-by-inning breakdown of how Lodolo’s afternoon went:

First inning
After a 43-minute rain delay, Lodolo gave up a pair of singles in a scoreless frame. Mixing his sinker and slider, he threw strikes on 12 of his 15 pitches and first-pitch strikes to four of the five batters. The coup of the inning was striking out Steven Kwan on a called strike three with a sinker at the bottom of the zone. Including Spring Training, Kwan had not struck out since Sept. 26, 2021, with Triple-A Columbus.

“Starting off through the first inning, he did a really good job getting through their lineup,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said.

Second inning
A lot went sideways on Lodolo as five batters reached safely without the lefty giving up a hit while two runs scored. That included two batters who were hit by pitches on backfoot sliders that literally struck their back feet.

“I thought he handled it extremely well. I thought the composure was there,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He had an inning where he lost the strike zone a little bit, but he wasn’t wild and missing by a ton. He was pulling his slider a little bit but he seemed calm. He handled it well. It’s going to happen.”

There were two outs, however, for the plate appearance that arguably hurt the most — a five-pitch walk to No. 9 hitter Austin Hedges, who is 0-for-16 on the season.

“Absolutely,” Lodolo said when asked if that was one that got away. “You don’t want to turn the lineup over; you go right after the guy.”

Two more walks followed Hedges, first to Myles Straw and then, on four pitches, to Kwan to force home the first run. Pitching coach Derek Johnson and Stephenson made a mound visit after the Straw walk.

“In his first start with some guys getting on, it’s easy for everything to get sped up,” Stephenson said. “We had a mound visit, deep breath and stuff. Trying to slow him down.”

Lodolo then hit José Ramírez with a pitch to bring in the second run. As the bullpen started stirring, a nice catch by center fielder Jake Fraley on a tough knuckling liner from Franmil Reyes prevented a much bigger inning.

A Reds pitcher hadn’t allowed five baserunners in an inning without yielding a hit since reliever Steve Delabar walked five batters in the fifth inning on May 17, 2016, at Cleveland.

Third inning
With one out, a 2-2 Lodolo curveball hung over the plate and was hit into the left-field seats by Owen Miller to make it a 3-0 game. Lodolo recovered nicely to strike out Ernie Clement on three pitches. Oscar Mercado hit a two-out double, but the Guardians were unable to add on.

“He was trying to make adjustments, and he did,” Bell said. “The next two innings, he showed that. I think that will really help him going into his next time out.”

Fourth inning
Lodolo had some tough luck to begin the frame as Straw hit a grounder to the right side with just a 66.2 mph exit velocity. Playing way off first base, Joey Votto fielded the ball but Straw outran Lodolo to the bag for a single. Two batters later, Ramírez lifted a first-pitch sinker to right-center field for a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 game.

With 79 pitches (49 strikes), Lodolo did not return for a fifth inning. He was replaced by reliever Buck Farmer.

“The biggest thing, at least for me, that stands out is that Ramírez is one of the best hitters in the game and I started him off the same way three straight times,” Lodolo said. “And obviously, the third time, a guy like that is going to capitalize on it and he did.”

Lodolo, 24, was the seventh overall pick by the Reds in the 2019 Draft and is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 2 prospect and the No. 42 prospect overall. Because of the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season and injuries last year, he logged only 69 innings in the Minors.

“I thought he came out and showed, other than the one inning, what he’s capable of,” Bell said.

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