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Jackson Stephens solid in major league debut, leads the Reds to 5-3 win over the Cubs

8 strikeouts. 2 RBI!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game

“I just can’t wait for Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, and Brandon Finnegan to come back and stabilize the Reds rotation,” I said not all that long ago. “This team could be really good!” I thought. You probably did to.

About that.

We still haven’t seen Disco, and probably won’t until August. We have, however, seen Bailey and Finnegan. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Finnegan again any time soon, as he’s back on the DL with the same shoulder injury. And, all due respect to Homer, he’s just been tough to watch.

So the debut and follow up performance from Luis Castillo has been a revelation for this team. It appears, for now at least, that a young Reds pitching prospect will actually lean into his potential rather than spectacularly crapping the bed like some of the more highly touted guys that came before him.

We got a little more of that optimistic feeling today with Jackson Stephens’s first major league start. He doesn’t have the same electrifying fastball that Castillo sports, but he does have a wide repertoire of pitches, and they were all on display today.

In all, he pitched 5 full innings with 91 pitches. He threw 64 of those 91 pitches for strikes and aside from a couple of balls that just never got off the plate (and were rightfully sent to the moon by Cubs batters), he worked in a lot of different stuff to get swings and misses. 8 strikeouts in 5 innings ain’t so bad, after all.

Oh, and for good measure, he put the stick to work, driving in two runs in the 4th inning that put the Reds ahead.

So, good on ya, rook. Have a trophy.

Honorable mention to Joey Votto, of course, with another 2 hit, 1 walk day. Adam Duvall doubled and drove in a run. Billy Hamilton and Scooter Gennett both hit once, walked once, and scored a run. Eugenio Suarez worked two good at bats that turned into walks. And, the Reds bullpen as a whole, as they preserved the win for Stephens by allowing nothing.

Key Plays

  • In the top of the 3rd, Jon Jay mashed a one out tater to right field. The dinger was his first of the season, but when you’re served an 85 mph meatball belt high, well... Then, one out later, Willson Contreras absolutely annihilated a 93 mph heater that was left right in middle of the plate. Only two mistake pitches for the rookie, but the Cubs made him pay for them. Cubs, 3-0.
  • The Reds fought back in the bottom of the 4th. Scooter Gennett walked to open the frame before Joey Votto singled to put runners on the corners. Adam Duvall then laced a double to score Scooter. Eugenio Suarez struck out before Scott Schebler was intentionally walked. Jose Peraza then popped out to the shortstop for the second out of the inning. Tucker Barnhart worked a walk with the bases loaded, however, scoring Votto. Then General Jackson Stephens stepped up to the plate and, in only his second AB, punched a grounder back up the middle to score two runs. Billy Hamilton popped out to end the inning, but the Reds take the lead, 4-3.
  • Hamilton walked to open the bottom of the 7th and shortly thereafter, the bases were full of Reds with no outs. Duvall grounded into a double play, though it did score Hamilton from third base. Suarez worked a walk, but Schebler grounded out to end the inning. I expected I’d be writing more here, but alas. Reds, 5-3.
  • And that was that. Raisel Iglesias got the four out save and the win for the Reds, 5-3.

Tony Graphanino

Source: FanGraphs

Other Notes

  • In the top of the 2nd inning, Tucker Barnhart put his throwing arm on full display. After Jackson Stephens struck out Almora, Barnhart popped up and despite being blinded by Almora falling away in front of him, threw an absolute dart to second base to nail Addison Russell’s attempted steal. It was his sixteenth such play of the season, tied for most in MLB.
  • The July 4th jerseys are bad, bad, bad. But the high socks some of the players were sporting... I can get behind those.
  • MLB will announce the winners of the All Star fan voting tomorrow at 7 PM on ESPN. So, it’ll only be a short 24 hours before we’ll find out if Zack Cozart squeaked out the win over Corey Seager. What happened in the 1B race will also go a long way to finding Joey Votto a spot on the team.
  • With the loss today, the Cubs are back under .500 with a 40-41 record. It’s July 1st.
  • The Reds are only 4.5 games behind those Cubs for second place in the division. It’s July 1st.
  • The Reds and Cubs will close this series out tomorrow afternoon, with the Reds looking for a sweep of the reigning World Champs. First pitch is slated for 1:10 PM EDT. Tim Adleman will square off against Jake Arrieta.
  • Tunes.