Nick Lodolo leads the Reds to a 4th consecutive victory

CINCINNATI – Almost a year ago last season, the Reds were a sub-.500 club that needed a big turnaround to save its season. Starting on June 9, they began what became a solid 12-game winning streak that not only saved Cincinnati’s season, but also put them in playoff contention.

By comparison, the Reds appear to be on a relatively modest but legitimate run while hitting and pitching well. A 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in the series opener Monday at Great American Ball Park gave the club a season-high four-game winning streak, raising its record to 24-30.

“I felt like we weren’t out of there by any means,” Reds starting pitcher Nick Lodolo said. “It was definitely a tough month, but there’s really nothing that’s changed for the team over the last four games. We’re sticking with it and playing good ball.”

Lodolo, out since May 12 with left groin strain, returned from the injured list in time to help maintain his momentum. He rebounded with one earned run and five hits allowed in 5 1/3 innings and 81 pitches.

Facing 21 batters, Lodolo threw 15 first-pitch strikes. His only blemish was giving up Paul Goldschmidt’s leadoff home run to left field with two outs in the top of the first inning.

“The first set didn’t start well, but I put my head down and kept going and at the end of the day I looked up and we won,” said Lodolo, who didn’t did not walk a walk and struck out three.

Lodolo, who had a 1.88 ERA in his first four starts, had allowed eight runs in 11 innings in the two starts before his move to the IL. He was lucky not to respect the minimum deadline: 15 days.

“I was definitely in a little rhythm there,” Lodolo said of his outing. “I was struggling a little mechanically, I feel like, for a lot of it. But I was able to make presentations when I needed to for the most part. I felt like I made a lot of progress, which helped me stay in the game.

What made this win a little more special for Cincinnati was that his pitching ended a hot Cardinals club that entered with wins in 10 of 12 games and a five-game winning streak. During that stretch, they scored 5.67 points per game.

St. Louis is also the first National League Central rival the Reds have faced since facing the Brewers April 8-10.

The Reds bullpen supported Lodolo by retiring all 11 batters in the face of nine strikeouts. Reliever Fernando Cruz struck out all five batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings, Sam Moll struck out two batters in the eighth and with Alexis Díaz unavailable, Lucas Sims struck out two in the ninth round for his first stop of 2024.

In some ways, Cruz embodied the Reds in May. Over an eight-game stretch from May 1-17 – all Reds losses – he was 0-4 with a 10.57 ERA. In his last five appearances, he has worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit.

“Now we are enjoying this streak. We’re playing really good baseball,” Cruz said. “I was really close to being like a rocket going off. As a team, we were in the same situation as me. We were really close to winning games. Now I’m doing really well. I think I’m leaving and the team is leaving. It happens. It’s time for us to enjoy and have fun.

Late in the first period with two outs, Jeimer Candelario picked up his starter by firing a 1-0 pitch to right field for a tying solo homer against Lance Lynn.

Poor Cardinals defense helped the Reds take a two-run lead in the second inning. Third baseman Nolan Arenado missed Nick Martini’s grounder for an error.

After a Jonathan India hit, Will Benson hit a grounder to the left side. As Martini moved between second and third base, the ball was recovered by Arenado for an RBI single. Jacob Hurtubise followed with a grounder to first base that skipped through Goldschmidt’s glove for a one-out error that scored India.

“It’s the time of year where you want to start playing your best baseball,” Hurtubise said. “Sometimes teams can get off to a slow start and it takes a little while. This team has been through ups and downs. But since I got here (May 13), the guys have been constantly working, they’ve been doing good work at bat. And now we’re seeing some of that work pay off.

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