CHICAGO — There may come a time when the Reds’ young starting pitcher, Hunter Greene, can go the distance and complete his own no-hitter. Friday wasn’t that day, but her flirtation with him happened again.
For the second time in his big league career, Greene kept a no-hitter opponent as he pitched six innings and tied a career-high 11 strikeouts in Cincinnati’s 9-0 win over the Cubs. at Wrigley Field.
“It would be great to go the distance. It’s tough when you hit a lot of guys. It increases the pitch count,” said Greene, who threw 110 pitches. “I would love to go nine hitless innings. That’s not normal. I’m focused on the moment.”
Greene, 23, who also picked up his first win of 2023, walked two of his only baserunners on the day. The Cubs only got the ball in the air three times and knocked the ball out of the infield twice — those were his last two hitters in the game.
Greene’s fastball was at its best this afternoon. He threw it 67 times and it averaged 98.3 mph while overtaking at 100.5 mph. It was his pitch for eight of his strikeouts.
“He had different equipment today,” receiver Curt Casali said. “It seemed like every time I looked up it was either 99 or 100. It was hard to catch up. When he’s in the with zone, above the with zone, it’s still better.”
The Cubs had 28 fouls among 67 strikes to prevent Greene from finishing the game.
“It’s great to have 0-2, two fouls, can I try to finish this guy on the third pitch? That’s what I’m working towards,” Greene said. “Trying to narrow the locations.”
Greene’s only inning without a strikeout was the sixth, when Tucker Barnhart retired and Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson each flew away.
“His most effective run was the sixth. Which was great. To be able to get him through six runs and not give up runs is a good start,” Reds manager David Bell said.
It was also Greene’s first time working with Casali this season.
“We really got to know each other in spring training throwing relievers,” said Greene, who is 1-4 with a 4.18 ERA in 11 starts. “I also worked with him a few times in the offseason. That’s where our relationship started. … He’s doing a great job. He’s got experience. Lots of positive reinforcement with him. It helps a lot, especially when a guy is still trying to figure out the league early on.”
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 first hit to center field late in the eighth.
“At the end of the day, a draw would have been great,” Casali said. “The shutouts are awesome. I’m really, really proud of that. It helps me sleep at night, for sure.”
On May 15, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Greene pitched 7 1/3 innings without a hit but walked five. Art Warren notched the other two outs, but not before the Pirates scored a run in an eight-inning 1-0 loss, short of an official no-hitter.
Greene, who signed a six-year, $53 million contract in April, had an inconsistent second season in the major league.
“I’m at the start of my career. I’m giving myself a chance,” Greene said. “People understood from the start that there will be growing pains. I try 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 pay off very soon.”
The young formation of the Reds played a big role in supporting Greene, offensively.
Spencer Steer hit an RBI triple against 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 away 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 major league debut on May 15, added his own three-hit effort to extend his hitting streak to five games.
The big lead kept Greene on the attack in the strike zone.
“It looked like he had a lot of intention on his throws today. He wasn’t going to be bullied today,” Casali said. “Just daring them to hit him. I think that was a positive step for him, that’s for sure.”