On paper, the Cincinnati Reds don’t match up well with the Houston Astros. The Reds have finished last four years in a row. The Astros won the World Series in 2017 and are on pace for a third straight 100-win season.
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The disparity was even greater Tuesday at Great American Ball Park when the Reds started Anthony DeSclafani, who had 30 career victories, against Justin Verlander, who ranks second among active pitchers with 213 wins.
The numbers, the stats and the history didn't matter Monday when the Reds won the series opener 3-2, and they failed to predict the result in the middle game of the three-game series. Verlander gave up three home runs, while DeSclafani pitched the Reds to a 4-3 victory.
“To get a ‘W’ against a guy like that for our team is huge,” DeSclafani said. “To win the series tonight is awesome. Hopefully we can go for the sweep (Wednesday). I think it shows how good we are. There’s a lot of excitement around this team.”
The Reds (33-38) entered the game with the third-best starting pitching ERA (3.63) in the National League. For the first two months of the season, DeSclafani was the weakest link in the five-man rotation. His ERA stood at 4.97 after he gave up three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 29.
June has produced a different DeSclafani (4-3, 4.22). He gave up one run in five innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6. In his previous start Wednesday, he pitched the Reds to a 7-2 victory against the Cleveland Indians, again allowing one run, this time in 5 2/3 innings. It was a similar story against the Astros (48-26). He allowed one earned run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“What we’re seeing is him getting better each time out,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s made great adjustments along the way, and he’s gaining confidence and really pitching well.”
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DeSclafani didn’t feel he had his best stuff against the Astros. He credited the Reds defense, which produced inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth innings.
“I’m just happy we got the win,” DeSclafani said. “I didn’t really have my slider. The slider didn’t have much depth today. I feel I made the pitches when I needed to. At the end of the day, it’s about grinding stuff out and bearing down when you need to. I felt I did that.”
NOTES: Derek Dietrich, who hit 12 home runs in May, hit his first home run in June. His two-run shot combined with Jesse Winker's lead-off home run to give the Reds a 3-0 lead in the first. Dietrich leads the team with 18 home runs. … Kyle Farmer's home run in the seventh proved to be the game-winning run for the Reds. It gave them a 4-1 lead. Alex Bregman cut the deficit to 4-3 with a two-run home run in the eighth.