Lamb's quality start shows off rookie's talent

Southpaw struck out eight over six innings in Sunday's loss

Lamb's quality start shows off rookie's talent

MILWAUKEE -- John Lamb felt bittersweet about how things went on Sunday. On one hand, the Reds rookie starter was his most consistent from beginning to end of his outing. On the other hand, it still went down as a 4-1 loss to the Brewers.

Lamb gave up two earned runs and five hits over six innings with a career high-tying eight strikeouts and 87 pitches thrown. He did not walk a batter and induced two inning-ending double plays.

"There's mixed emotions," Lamb said. "I'm certainly happy with feeling like I went out there and got through -- not to use quality start as the label of it -- but feeling like I kept the team in the game for a longer term. I'm excited a little bit about that. Of course, we're going out there to win the game."

Even if Lamb wanted to avoid the term, it was his first quality start. He did allow Ryan Braun's two-out solo home run in the first inning and Jonathan Lucroy's two-out RBI single for the go-ahead run in the third inning.

"He was real good. He had a nice rapport going with [catcher] Brayan Pena," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He kind of settled in as far as blending in that really good changeup. I just thought they worked really well together. John made quality pitch after quality pitch, especially after they got on the same page in the second inning. I think a sign of things to come.

"I think John is going to be a very reliable starting pitcher for us."

Lamb is 0-3 with a 5.24 ERA in four starts overall with five walks and 29 strikeouts. His three previous winless starts were far from disasters, but were also rougher around the edges. He was prone to lengthier at-bats that ran up his pitch count, and also susceptible to trouble the third time through a lineup, especially in both his starts vs. the Dodgers.

When his fastball wasn't as effective early, Lamb and Pena went heavier with off-speed stuff. Several of his strikeouts came with the changeup.

"He needed to access the off-speed a little bit more to set up the fastball," Price said. "Quite often, it's the other way around with starting pitchers. They made a really good decision to incorporate the changeup at a higher percentage and made some very good pitches with it."

When the score was still 2-1, Price had to summon a pinch-hitter for Lamb with two outs in the seventh and a runner on first base. Otherwise, he had at least another inning left in him.

The Reds acquired Lamb in the July 26 trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Royals. He was called up after a strong Triple-A season for Omaha and Louisville. Sunday was perhaps a step closer to taking those performances to the next level.

"I would certainly say that today was my first start being here in the four that I've had that this was a better effort. In the sense, it's something better to look at in regards to the line," Lamb said. "That said, we're going out here trying to win ballgames. I'm not here to hang my head about it. It's just I'm not going to be too excited about that start."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.