Ashcraft cruised for a smooth six scoreless innings on 76 pitches as the Reds pounded out five home runs for a 14-8 victory over the D-backs at Great American Ball Park. He finished with three hits and no walks allowed while striking out four to improve to 3-0 with a 1.14 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his first four starts in the big leagues.
“I was out there giving it all I’ve got, just throwing the dickens out of it,” Ashcraft said.
On the heels of Greene, who faced the minimum and retired his final 20 batters in a row during a rain-shortened, seven-inning complete game for a 7-0 win over Arizona, Ashcraft retired his first 10 consecutive batters. The last time Reds pitchers combined to retire 30-plus batters in a row was June 9-10, 1979, when Tom Seaver and Paul Moskau retired 35 straight.
“You kind of feel for the Diamondbacks because you’re facing two horses on back-to-back days like that,” Reds left fielder Albert Almora Jr. said. “You don’t even get a breather in between.”
Reds hitters had no trouble supplying offense for Ashcraft, with Joey Votto’s three-run homer to center field in the first inning giving him a 3-0 lead. By the third inning, it was 9-0 when Matt Reynolds hit a two-run homer to right field.
The first hit of the game against Ashcraft came on a base hit to left field by Pavin Smith in the top of the fourth inning. Almora superbly made a sliding stop and threw Smith out at second base trying for a double.
“As an outfielder it’s kind of boring out there. He gets a lot of ground balls,” Almora said. “I was positioned in the right place, he hit it hard and it was at an angle where I could make a play. [Ashcraft] has been unbelievable. I saw it first hand in [Triple-A] Louisville at the beginning of the year and I knew he was going to be up here in no time.”
The Greene-Ashcraft rookie combo is shaping up to be a nice under-the-radar story that would get more attention if the Reds didn’t have a 20-35 record. According to Stats Inc., Cincinnati is the first MLB team in the modern era to have rookie starters throw six-plus shutout innings with no walks in back-to-back games.
“It’s really special. I think we can all agree and enjoy watching it,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Last night, strikeouts, the pop-ups. Graham is going to get his share of strikeouts. There’s no question but more importantly, he gets outs, and a lot of those were on the ground. So quite a bit different, both very successful. It’s going to be fun watching these guys for a long time.”
Here is what Ashcraft did to Arizona on Tuesday:
In the top of the sixth inning, with a runner on third base and one out, Ashcraft switched modes and went after strikeouts. First, he got Daulton Varsho with an 88 mph slider. The only non-slider strikeout came against what proved to be his final batter. Using a 98 mph sinker on his 76th pitch, he froze Smith for a called strike three.
A fired-up Ashcraft responded by pumping his arms and yelling in excitement as he left the mound with his third consecutive quality start in hand.
“I saw the opportunity where they had a chance to score and I wanted to shut the door down as fast as I could,” Ashcraft said. “So I was trying to get it to where I get swings and misses and get out of it.