Quintana, Castillo seeking better results as Cubs face Reds

Chicago Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana did not want to be leave the game his last time out, but he did. Cincinnati Reds right-hander Luis Castillo does not want the ball to keep leaving the ballpark against him, but it does.

The NL Central rival Cubs and Reds continue their four-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park with an interesting matchup of two pitchers who have done well against their Friday night opponent yet are struggling of late.

Quintana (6-5) was nearly flawless his last time out against the Reds, limiting them to a Scott Schebler single over seven innings while striking out seven and walking four during a 10-0 victory in the second game of a May 19 doubleheader.

In the first game of that doubleheader, Castillo (4-8) didn’t get the decision as the Reds won 5-4 in 11 innings, but he held the Cubs to one run on six hits despite walking six in five innings. He is 0-0 in two career starts against Chicago with an impressive 0.82 ERA while limiting them to eight hits over 11 innings.

Similarly, Quintana is very good against the Reds, going 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA while striking out 16 in 16 2-3 innings over three career starts. He could use another good start Friday, as the Reds ran their winning streak to four games they’ve won seven of nine by overcoming a two-run deficit to beat Chicago 6-2 on Thursday night.

That’s what’s good for the two starting pitchers. Here’s what’s bad.

Quintana is winless in his last three starts, and he was lifted Sunday from a scoreless game against the Cardinals after two runners reached in the sixth. They came around to score against the Cubs bullpen, and Quintana ended up taking the loss as St. Louis went on to win 5-0.

“All the time, I wanted to keep going,” said Quintana, who was removed after throwing 86 pitches. “I feel like I pitched really good. It’s a tough game, zero-zero.”

Most of the Reds’ top batters struggle against Quintana

Eugenio Suarez is 1-for-9 (.111), Scooter Gennett is 1-for-8 (.125) and Joey Votto is 2-for-8 (.250).

Castillo also hasn’t been able to win lately, losing his last four starts while giving up an alarming six home runs and 16 earned runs over 20 2-3 innings. His velocity is down from his rookie season a year ago, and his ERA is way up from 3.12 to 5.77.

Too many of his pitches have been going up and out of the ballpark and he leads the NL with 17 homers allowed while going winless since May 24.

In his last start Saturday, a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Castillo gave up two homers among his six hits allowed over five innings, one of them on a 93-mph fastball to Elias Diaz. A year ago, Castillo often touched 100 mph with a four-seam fastball that averaged 97.4 mph.

“I’m trying to do my best,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “Every time I go out there, I give up like one or two home runs. I really don’t know what’s happening right now. I’m just going to keep working down in the bullpen (between starts).”

Castillo’s slump, and his apparent velocity drop, are concerning to the Reds because he was 3-0 in his previous four starts before beginning his slide.

Castillo’s low ERA against the Cubs is reflected in some of their top hitters lack of success against him. Javier Baez is 0-for-5 (.000) and Anthony Rizzo is 1-for-6 (.167).?

The Cubs didn’t do much offensively Thursday, either, as right-hander Matt Harvey (2-5) made the best of his eight starts with the Reds, holding Chicago to two runs and five hits over six innings. He struck out six and walked only one.

“He was really good. He just shut them down,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s getting better and better.”

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (5-7) breezed through the first five innings without giving up a run but was lifted after walking Suarez with the bases loaded to force in a run. Left-handed reliever Randy Rosario promptly gave up the first career grand slam by the left-handed hitting Jesse Winker, and the Reds added one more run in the inning.

“Some really great at-bats in the inning,” Riggleman said. “And the big hit speaks for itself.”

The loss dropped the Cubs one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.