CINCINNATI — In his third big league start on Sunday vs. the Cardinals, rookie Reds lefty Nick Lodolo was given something few of his fellow pitchers have had lately — a lead. This time, Lodolo knew just how to keep it.
Cincinnati’s 11-game losing streak finally ended, and Lodolo notched his first Major League victory with a 4-1 win over St. Louis at Great American Ball Park.
“A lot of celebration going on today. It was obviously a big win. Looking back to yesterday, our guys have been doing everything they can to win a game … fighting through it and battling,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Lodolo really just came out and when we needed it most, got his first win and was just outstanding.”
Over 5 2/3 innings, Lodolo allowed one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Along the way, the Reds’ No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline (No. 41 overall), threw 79 pitches, including 57 strikes. He tossed first-pitch strikes to 15 of his 22 batters — including nine of the first 11 he faced.
“That’s the biggest key to success, honestly. Not falling behind guys [or] getting predictable, and that was my main goal today,” Lodolo said.
The last time the Reds held a lead for a full inning was during their previous victory, on April 10 at Atlanta. Over the past two weeks and 99 innings, they held two leads in the top of the first innings last Monday and Tuesday — both in San Diego. On Monday, Lodolo had a 1-0 lead only to give up Manny Machado’s two-run homer in the bottom of the first.
Against the Cardinals in the bottom of the first inning, the Reds built a 2-0 lead against Adam Wainwright when Colin Moran hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out that scored Tyler Naquin. Nick Senzel added a two-out single that scored Tommy Pham before Senzel was thrown out running back to first base.
Lodolo responded perfectly with a seven-pitch top of the second inning, including his strikeout of Edmundo Sosa on three pitches to end the frame. After relying heavily on his sinker and slider in the first two starts, Lodolo used an elevated four-seam fastball to get Sosa as well as on his strikeouts against Yadier Molina and Paul Goldschmidt in the third inning after Cincinnati had taken a 3-0 lead.
“It’s something I feel like now I have had to start using more up here because big league hitters will just keep feasting on that one spot if you keep throwing it there,” Lodolo said. “Really to change the eye level and show I will go there is a big part.”
In the fifth inning following Dylan Carlson’s leadoff double, Lodolo retired the rest of the side in order — with two more strikeouts of Sosa on another elevated fastball and Harrison Bader swinging on a breaking ball that dove inside.
“He was able to get his feet wet a little bit and now he’s started to settle in and attack hitters,” said Naquin, who led off the Reds’ first inning with a double and added an RBI groundout in the second. “That’s no easy lineup, it’s one of the better ones in baseball, and he was able to settle in pretty early.”
Lodolo worked with catcher Mark Kolozsvary, who was making his first big league start. Kolozsvary was his most frequent catcher last season at Double-A Chattanooga, which helped keep things flowing smoothly.
“Mark knows my stuff. Out of anyone here, he’s probably caught it the most,” Lodolo said.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Cardinals got a one-out ground-rule double from Goldschmidt and an RBI double from Tyler O’Neill to center field to notch a run against Lodolo. With two outs, Bell went to the bullpen and summoned Tony Santillan for 1 1/3 innings.
“Obviously we’ve been losing games, and to step up as a pitcher on a day we needed it most … To be at his best like that says a lot about Nick,” Bell said. “He just did what he’s capable of doing and nothing more.”
Art Warren handled the eighth inning and Lucas Sims notched his first save of 2022 with a perfect ninth.
“Continuing to add on and put up the zeros was great,” Bell said. “I do believe at the beginning of the game, we really set the tone and got us going in the right direction.”