Reds host Padres with young hopefuls on mound

This season is proving to be pretty dismal for the Cincinnati Reds, much like their recent past. However, Luis Castillo offers hope for the future.

This season is also a lost cause for the San Diego Padres, much like their recent past. Eric Lauer, though, is San Diego’s version of Castillo.

Two of the National League’s three last-place teams, the Reds and the Padres, open a four-game series Friday night at Great American Ball Park, and both clubs have long since begun looking to 2019 and beyond.

The Reds are counting on Castillo and the Padres are counting on Lauer to be an integral part of that rebuilding. After all, the present isn’t proving very kind to either team.

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished off a three-game sweep of the Reds on Wednesday night, winning 3-2 at PNC Park to deal Cincinnati its 11th loss in 14 games. The Reds scored once in the ninth, put the potential tying run on second with none out and loaded the bases with two out, but still couldn’t get the tying run home against Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez.

It’s been that kind of season for a team that lost 15 of its first 18 games and, except for a midseason surge that lasted about a month, hasn’t had much to cheer about. Especially right-hander Homer Bailey, who lost for the 14th time in 15 decisions. The Reds are 1-19 when he starts.

“(We’re) just coming up short,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “I’m satisfied with the effort we get. The guys play hard, play with intensity. But we’re not getting results.”

The right-handed Castillo is up and down, but the right-hander’s 8-11 record and 4.83 ERA are a bit of a misnomer because he’s given Riggleman a number of good starts, including his last one. He struck out a career-high 11 while shutting out the surging St. Louis Cardinals on two hits for 6 2/3 innings of the Reds’ 4-0 victory Saturday at Busch Stadium.

“We’ve seen it a number of times this year,” Riggleman said. “We feel like he can do this. He’s not 21, he’s 25, (and) it’s time. We just hopes he builds on that, has a good September and takes us into ’19 as one of the guys that can anchor our staff.”

For the hard-throwing Castillo, September starts Thursday night.

Likewise, the 23-year-old Lauer keeps offering the Padres hope for the immediate future. He pitched five no-hit innings Thursday against the first-place Colorado Rockies in his first start since spending a month on the disabled list with a left forearm strain. Lauer allowed only an unearned run, and the Padres went on to win 3-2 in 13 innings.

Manager Andy Green kept him in long enough to throw 81 pitches, or probably more than was planned. Lauer breezed through his fifth and final inning, retiring all three batters he faced.

“I think it was great for him to get through that,” Green said.

Lauer is 5-7 with a 5.01 ERA in his first major league season with the Padres, and he’s offered up enough starts like that to suggest to them he’ll be a big part of their staff going forward.

The left-hander from Kent State has given up two runs or fewer in seven of his last 12 starts, a span marred only because he permitted 14 runs in three starts just before going on the disabled list. He’s faced the Reds only once, holding them to one run on five hits over five innings of an 8-2 Padres victory June 2 at Petco Park.

Castillo is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two career starts against the Padres, including a 6-3 loss on June 3, when he gave up four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings.

The Padres are 2-1 against the Reds this season and 22-13 against them since 2012, when Cincinnati last won the season series. San Diego was idle Wednesday after splitting a two-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Padres have lost three of four.