CHICAGO – There may come a time when young Reds starting pitcher Hunter Greene will be able to go the distance and complete his own no-hitter. Friday was not that day, but his flirtation with it happened again.
For the second time in his big league-career, Greene held an opponent hitless, as he threw six innings and tied for 11 strikeouts during Cincinnati’s 9-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“It would be great to go the distance. It’s hard when you take out a lot of guys. The pitches are going up,” said Greene, who threw 110 pitches. “I would like to go nine innings without hits. That’s not normal. I’m focused on the now.”
The 23-year old Greene, who also recorded his first win of 2023, walked his lone runners on the day twice. The Cubs threw the ball in the air only three times and got the ball out of the infield twice – those were his last two batters in the game.
Greene’s fastball was at its best this afternoon. He threw it 67 times and it averaged 98.3 mph while topping out at 100.5 mph. It was his pitch for eight of his strikeouts.
“He had a different tackle today,” catcher Curt Casali said. “It seemed like every time I looked up it was 99 or 100. It was hard to overtake. When he’s in the zone with it, on top of the zone with it, it’s even better.”
The Cubs had 28 foul balls between 67 strikes to prevent Greene from ending the game.
“It’s great to get 0-2, two foul balls, can I try and finish this guy on the third pitch? I’m working towards that,” said Greene. “Trying to lower the pitches.”
Greene’s lone inning without a strikeout was the sixth, when Tucker Barnhart grounded out and Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson each flied out.
“His most efficient inning was the sixth. That was great. To get him through six and you’re not allowing runs is a good start,” said Reds manager David Bell.
It was also Greene’s first time working with Casali this season.
“We became very familiar in Spring Training along with throwing bullpens,” said Greene, who is 1-4 with a 4.18 ERA in 11 starts. “I also worked with him a few times off season. That’s where our relationship started. Trying to figure out the league early.”
Rookie reliever Eduardo Salazar kept a combined no-hitter alive with three groundouts in the seventh inning, but gave up his first of two hits on Christopher Morel’s lead offline line-drive single to center field in the bottom of the eighth.
“At the end of the day, a no-hitter would have been great,” said Casali. “Shutouts are great. I’m really proud of that. It definitely helps me sleep at night.”
On May 15, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Greene threw 7 1/3 hitless innings, but walked five. Art Warren scored the other two outs, but not before the Pirates scored a run in an eight-inning 1-0 loss, leaving an official no-hitter behind.
Greene, who signed a six-year, $53 million contract in April, has had an inconsistent second major league season.
“I’m at the beginning of my career. I’m giving myself a chance,” said Greene. “People had to understand in the early stages that there will be growing pains. I’m trying to figure things out. We have a young group of players who will figure things out. We work hard every day putting pieces together and it will be very soon pays off.”
The youthful Reds lineup played a big part in supporting Greene offensively.
Spencer Steer hit an RBI triple off Justin Steele in the first inning and scored on Tyler Stephenson’s RBI single to give Cincinnati a 2-0 lead. Steer finished with three hits and was one homer shy of hitting for the cycle.
Stephenson also had three hits and added an RBI-single in the fourth inning to give Cincinnati a 6-0 lead. Matt McLain, who made his big league-debut on May 15, added his own three-hit effort to extend his hitting streak to five games.
The big lead allowed Greene to stay on the offensive in the strike zone.
“It just looked like he had a lot of intentions with his pitches today. He wasn’t going to get bullied today,” said Casali. “Just challenge them to hit it. I definitely think it was a positive move for him.”