August 13, 2022

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Rookie's start, vet's power lead to Reds win

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CINCINNATI — Amid the buzz swirling around the Reds before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, they got a superb pitching performance from a rookie not expected to go anywhere any time soon. Then Cincinnati got a victory from a hitter who appears likely to be on the move in a trade.

Left-hander Nick Lodolo took a shutout into the seventh inning while Brandon Drury’s eighth-inning home run gave the Reds a 3-2 victory over the Orioles on Sunday at Great American Ball Park to take two of three games in the series.

Drury, who left no doubt about his deep drive to left field off reliever Félix Bautista, also left no doubt on his views about Lodolo.

“I think Lodolo could be one of the best left-handed pitchers in this league from what I see,” Drury said. “I remember facing him in a live batting practice in Atlanta, like the second game of the season, and I’ve never seen a left-handed slider like that in my career. I’m very high on Lodolo. He could be extremely special, and I think he’s going to keep getting better, too, as he learns whatever he needs to get better at, pitching at the top or whatever it is. I think stuff-wise, he’s incredible.”

Over six-plus innings, Lodolo gave up one earned run with four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of his 24 batters, too.

“I had pretty good command of all three pitches in the zone. The biggest reason for my success was getting ahead a lot today,” Lodolo said.

Lodolo is 3-3 with a 4.23 ERA in eight starts this season, including a 3.42 ERA in his last five games since returning from a 69-game stint on the injured list with lower back soreness.

The 24-year-old has stepped up another notch as he’s given up three runs — one earned — over 12 innings with 16 strikeouts over two starts since the All-Star break. After his previous start, against the Marlins on Monday, he noted that’s focused on the middle of the strike zone.

“Keep attacking guys is the biggest thing,” Lodolo said. “You shade thirds. Unless you’ve got two strikes and are trying to go up and get it there, other than that, I’m trying to fill up the zone. The biggest thing is letting my stuff work inside the zone. I know if I do that it’ll probably be a good day.”

It was still a scoreless game in the top of the sixth inning when Lodolo gave up back-to-back singles with two outs. But he reached back with a 94 mph sinker to get Ramon Urías looking at strike three to end the threat.

“Just watching him pitch and the presence that impressed me probably more than anything with Nick today,” Reds manager David Bell said.

Bell let Lodolo return for the top of the seventh, but a long two-run bottom of the sixth for the Reds might have chilled him a little. He walked Ryan Mountcastle to open the seventh before he was pulled, and Mountcastle eventually scored on a sacrifice fly against reliever Joel Kuhnel.

“I thought [Lodolo] was really good,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of chances offensively until he was out of the game. He’s got a really good arm and [he’s] a good looking young starting pitcher.”

Reds top reliever Alexis Díaz blew the lead in the top of the eighth inning when Anthony Santander hit the game-tying homer.

In the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Drury hit a 1-2 pitch from Bautista into the left-field seats for his team-high 20th homer.

Normally the regular third baseman, Drury was given the day off from the lineup by Bell, but not because he was poised to be traded. Bell noted he hadn’t missed a start since the All-Star break. Drury pinch-hit in the sixth inning for Mike Moustakas and took over at first base.

Drury, who is making $900,000 this season, will be a free agent this winter. His breakout year has helped draw interest from contenders in need of a bat.

“It’s definitely a little bit different because it could be a whole new clubhouse in a matter of a day,” Drury said. “It’s definitely on my mind a little bit, but at the end of the day, whether I’m here or somewhere else, I get to keep playing baseball. That’s all I can control.”

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