HOUSTON -- Having endured a stretch of one trip through the rotation where only one starter produced more than five innings of work, the Reds welcomed rookie left-hander John Lamb pitching into the sixth inning on Friday night of their series opener against the Astros.
But in a fitting twist for its taxed bullpen, Cincinnati (27-41) labored for 11 innings before pulling out a 4-2 victory. Four Reds relievers worked the final 5 2/3 innings after Lamb departed with one out in the sixth, adding to the recent run of strenuous workloads.
"It doesn't really matter, does it?" said Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani, who notched his eighth save after working around two baserunners in the 11th inning. "Whenever that phone rings we've got to be ready, that's pretty much the end of it."
Reds starters have pitched into the eighth inning only three times this season and have completed eight innings just once, with left-hander Brandon Finnegan allowing one run on five hits and four walks over eight innings at the Dodgers on May 23. With left-hander Cody Reed set to make his major league debut on Saturday, the odds are that Reds manager Bryan Price will be leaning on his bullpen for additional work.
Reed (6-3, 3.20 ERA with Triple A Louisville) has worked on developing his changeup following a positive showcase with the Reds during spring training. Price anticipates that Reed will stick around as long as he continues to show the measured improvement that followed his acquisition from Kansas City last July through his promotions from Double A to Louisville and now to the Reds.
"He has to pitch well," Price said. "But we don't have an exit strategy for him to head back to Triple A."
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (3-9, 5.54 ERA) will start for the Astros looking to reverse course on what has been a miserable string of results.
Keuchel is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in June. After completing the 2015 schedule undefeated at Minute Maid Park, Keuchel has dropped three consecutive home decisions. His lone home win came against the Tigers on April 15 when he worked eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory.
Given his recent run, Keuchel could use every advantage he gets, including the exceptional outfield defense the Astros (32-36) provided right-hander Lance McCullers Friday night.
Right fielder George Springer made a fantastic diving catch to rob Reds left fielder Adam Duvall of extra bases to close the sixth inning. With the game tied 2-2 in the ninth, center fielder Carlos Gomez matched Springer with a dazzling running grab to right-center field, snagging a ball off the bat of Reds second baseman Jose Peraza that appeared headed for the wall.
"For a non-fence type catch it's as impressive as you'll see," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of the Springer catch. "The distance he covered he had no margin for error. He had to go at the perfect angle, he had to launch his body at the perfect time and it's away from his open side so he has to reach across his body."