Braves starter keeps Reds at bay through five frames, allows four runs in sixth
By Cody Pace
CINCINNATI -- Through the first five innings of Wednesday's series finale between the Reds and Braves at Great American Ball Park, Lucas Harrell didn't have his best stuff. But he was good enough.
Harrell was admittedly rusty in the first, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach before striking out Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and inducing a grounder from Eugenio Suarez. He allowed three hits and three walks over those five frames, but he limited the damage and came out unscathed with a two-run lead.
When Harrell went out at the 79-pitch mark for the sixth, the wheels fell off. He gave up three singles and two runs to the first four batters he faced, and then he gave up a two-run homer Reds catcher to Tucker Barnhart to break the tie as the Braves went on to lose, 6-3.
"I made a lot of good pitches when I needed to," Harrell said. "There in that last inning, I made a couple mistakes over the plate and the home run, [the] fastball was supposed to be in. Overall, I felt pretty good, I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Started out a little rusty. After that, I felt like I kind of got in a rhythm. A.J. [Pierzynski] and I were on the same page the whole game."
The start was an improvement over the seven-run (five earned), 3 2/3-inning performance against the Rockies on Friday, but not nearly as good as Harrell's first two outings for Atlanta, when he threw 13 2/3 innings with a 1.32 ERA.
Harrell said his biggest problem in the sixth was location. In the first five innings, he worked the edge of the strike zone, and while he made his fair share of mistakes in the upper half of the zone, he was able to draw 11 foul balls, six swinging strikes and three whiffs on pitches in the upper half of the zone, according to Pitch F/x.
In the sixth, three of the four pitches thrown in the upper half of the zone were hits, including Barnhart's homer.
"If I knew then what I know now, it'd be different," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's been good in trouble and getting out of trouble, and [he] sinks the ball. I think, hopefully, he'll keep it on the ground."
Harrell was also victim of circumstance. The second hit, which came off the bat of Suarez, was a good pitch that broke his bat, but just found some green in the outfield. Then, on a single from Jose Peraza, center fielder Ender Inciarte almost threw out Suarez at the plate, but the safe call stood after a more than three-minute review.
Though Harrell said it didn't affect him, Snitker said he can imagine a lengthy review might affect a guy on the mound. Three pitches later, Harrell served up Barnhart's homer.
"I think they're used to it by now," Snitker said. "Honestly, I'd probably hate it if I'm a pitcher and you've got the juices flowing and you're out there pitching, and you wonder when they take that long."
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.