Pirates’ Williams faces tough encore vs. Reds

It’s going to be awfully difficult for Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams to have a better game Friday against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park than he had in his first start of the season.

Unless, perhaps, he no-hits the Reds for more than six innings.

In his first start, Williams no-hit the Detroit Tigers through six innings Sunday but then got pulled in what became a 1-0 Pittsburgh win.

Even after reaching just 85 pitches, Williams wasn’t disappointed he didn’t get a shot at a complete game no-hitter, not after walking five and striking out one in temperatures just over freezing.

“It’s tough, but I was playing Russian Roulette,” Williams said. “It was only a matter of time.

“I couldn’t keep walking guys and getting out of jams. I understand the move totally. At the end of the day, a 1-0 ballgame, we have a good bullpen that can shut it down, get some fresh arms in there, and it worked for us.”

As it was, Williams had to settle for the win.

“He wasn’t going to get through nine,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “It just wasn’t there. It wasn’t an option for him.”

In his second start, Williams (1-0, 0.00) will face right-hander Luis Castillo (0-1, 10.80) as the division-leading Pirates (5-1) face the Reds (1-4). Williams is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in six career games (three starts) against Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh won 5-2 on Thursday in the opener of a four-game weekend series and the first of 19 meetings between the National League Central foes. It was the Reds’ first road game.

Castillo is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh. He struck out 14 and allowed two walks in just 11 innings in those games, which came during his rookie season in 2017.

Castillo, 25, will be looking to have a performance much more like the ones he turned in last season than the one he had in his 2018 season debut.

He made his major league debut last June and in 15 starts led all NL rookies with a 3.12 ERA and a .202 batting average against. He had 98 strikeouts.

On Saturday, Castillo gave up six runs and six hits in five innings of a 13-7 loss to Washington. He struck out six and walked one.

“He was just OK,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. “I thought his command in the (strike) zone was not great. His stuff was good — good changeup, good fastball velocity, good slider. But in the zone, not great command. Some pitches to those lefties ran back over the plate.”

Castillo had trouble with his mainstay.

“I wasn’t locating my fastball well,” Castillo said. “I threw some good secondary stuff. That allowed me to stay in the game.”

The Reds have a good deal of youth and are willing to work with them, including Castillo.

“You know, you’re kind of just throwing these guys into the fire and saying, ‘Hey, go out there and continue to learn and improve,'” Price said. “It’s no different than any other young guy. However, not a lot of starting pitchers have that type of stuff. … He’s really good and he’s comfortable in competition and he does a lot of things that put our team in a position to win.

“I’d like to see him continue to develop and get better.”