McCoy: Lodolo struggles in MLB debut, Guardians top Reds

It was hoped by the Cincinnati Reds that pitcher Nick Lodolo’s major league debut would mimic the wildly successful debut of Hunter Greene.

It was not to be.

Lodolo, a 6-foot-6 left hander, could have used Mission Control for some guidance on a gray, drizzly day in near-empty Great American Ball Park.

Lodolo walked three, hit two and gave up five runs and seven hits, including two home runs, in four innings in a 7-3 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Guardians swept the two-game series and clinched the Ohio Cup, even before the two teams meet for two games in Cleveland later this season.

As possessor of the Cup, the Guardians need only a split of the four games to retain the Cup.

Lodolo’s initiation into the major leagues was not even close to Greene’s debut victory in Atlanta on Sunday — five innings, three runs, four hits, two walks seven strikeouts.

There were 30-some relatives and friends watching from a private box, including his parents and his Little League coach.

“Obviously it was a big day for me,” said Lodolo during a post-game media interview. “It was a dream come true, but not the result I was looking for. I’ll go back and look at video, look at what I did do good and take that away and built off that for what we need to do next time.”

He gave up a bloop single and a ground-ball single in the first but kept the Guardians off the scoreboard.

But Lodolo lost sight of the strike zone in the second and Cleveland scored two runs without benefit of a hit.

Lodolo gave up three walks and hit two batters. He walked Steven Kwan with the bases loaded for the first run and hit Jose Ramirez with a pitch with the bases loaded for the second run.

And only a diving catch with two outs by outfielder Jake Fraley saved two more runs from scoring.

The Guardians scored a run in the third on Owen Miller’s home run. They finished with four homers, two by Miller.

The second homer off Lodolo came in the fourth, a two-run blast by Ramirez, his second of the series.

Manager David Bell preferred to emphasize the positives and slough off the negatives of Lodolo’s debut.

“He had one tough inning (the second), but I thought he handled it extremely well,” said Bell. “The composure was there, but he had the inning where he lost the strike zone a little bit, but he wasn’t wild by a ton. He was just missing.

“He was pulling his slider a little bit, but he was calm, he handled it well,” Bell added. “It is going to happen and I actually think it was a step for him to get this game in and have some struggles, but then bounce back.

“Other than a home run to a great hitter (Ramirez), he bounced back,” said Bell.

Of the home run to Ramirez, who hit a grand slam in Tuesday’s game, Lodolo said his thought process went haywire.

“The biggest thing for me that stands out is …I mean, Ramirez, one of the best hitters in the game, I started him off three straight times and obviously the third time, a guy like that is going to capitalize on it and he did.”

Bell mentioned Lodolo’s trouble with his slider and he agreed.

“Yes, I was missing with the slider and hit two guys with it,” he said. “My fastball was not missing by much so there isn’t much of an adjustment I need to make there.”

Lodolo insisted that shaky nerves played no part in his struggles

“Not really,” he said, “Honestly, I was prepared, and I was ready to go.”

Guardians starter Triston McKenzie, as thin as a Louisville Slugger, held the Reds to no runs and three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

But manager Terry Francona removed him after four innings after only 67 pitches, denying McKenzie of qualifying for the win.

It was 6-0 when Jake Fraley homered with two outs in the fifth off relief pitcher Eli Morgan.

And it was 7-1 when Tyler Stephenson hit a two-run home run in the eighth off relief pitcher Nick Sandlin.

The Guardians put at least one runner on base in each of the first eight innings until Dauri Moreta pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

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