The third time, as they say, was the charm.
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The Reds rookie right-hander made his major league debut on April 10 in Philadelphia, starting the eighth inning with Cincinnati trailing the Phillies, 2-1. After getting the first batter to ground out, he issued a walk and gave up a double before logging his first major league strikeout. He intentionally walked the next batter but still was one pitch from escaping the situation when Scott Kingery launched a grand slam, extending Philadelphia’s lead to 6-1.
Two days later, against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park, Rainey entered the game in the seventh inning with nobody out, runners on first and second and the Reds trailing, 7-4. He proceeded to walk the first three batters he faced, forcing in two runs, before a third scored on a sacrifice fly. The next batter lined out before Jose Martinez capped the inning with a two-run double.
Rainey, 25, was optioned to Triple-A Louisville the next day. He was recalled on Wednesday when Raisel Iglesias was placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Rainey entered the game against Pittsburgh with runners on first and second, nobody out and the Pirates leading, 4-0. When he walked Josh Harrison, the first batter he faced, it looked like déjà vu. This time, though, he regrouped to strike out Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli and get out of the inning on Josh Bell’s one-hopper right back to him.
He walked the leadoff batter in the eighth, but capped his night with two fly outs and a strikeout.
“It’s something you want to learn from, but at the same time, it’s something you want to forget,” Rainey said before Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates about having the reliever’s classic short memory. “I was somewhat successful (Wednesday), except for walking the leadoff batter. That’s something I’ve got to control, or it’s going to come back to bite me.”
Rainey believed his approach on Wednesday was similar to his previous two outings, but the results were better.
“I didn’t feel like I was doing anything different,” he said. “I felt like I was attacking the same way.”
Interim manager Jim Riggleman agreed with the assessment that Rainey’s mix of a fastball that reaches 100 miles per hour and slider that zooms in at 91 can be intimidating.
“I think the first time he was here, he threw some good pitches,” Riggleman said. “He was one pitch away from having a good inning, but then he hung a slider. Last night, he was challenging the hitters, and he had a devastating slider he used to put hitters away. I think he had a little less jitters.”
Lorenzen debut: Right-hander Michael Lorenzen finally made his 2018 debut on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless 10thinning in the Reds' 12-inning, 5-4 loss. Lorenzen, sidelined since spring training with a right shoulder strain, retired the first two batters he faced, but he was kicking himself for walking Sean Rodriguez after getting to a one-ball, two-strikes count on the Pirates' right fielder.
“I tried to get too cool, and that probably cost me 10 pitches,” said Lorenzen, who also gave up a single before getting Polanco to ground out. “I was overthrowing a little. I’ll have to learn from that. The way (the bullpen) is going to be used, I’m going to have to be more pitch-efficient.”
Riggleman pinch-hit for Lorenzen with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the 10th. If Lorenzen, probably Cincinnati’s best-hitting pitcher, had been around longer this season, Riggleman might’ve let him bat in that situation. Lorenzen was ready.
“I took batting practice every day in the minor leagues,” he said. “He wanted to get that first one out of the way. I understand that.”
Day off for Joey: After playing all 12 innings on Wednesday and mired in a 5-for-27 slump, first baseman Joey Votto did not start Thursday's game. Brandon Dixon made his first major league start as Votto's replacement.
“It was a long night last night,” Riggleman explained. “We anticipate Joey playing every day on the road trip.”
The Reds are scheduled to open a 10-day, nine-game road trip on Friday with the first of three games against the Rockies in Colorado. Sal Romano (2-5) is Cincinnati’s projected starter for the 8:40 p.m. start. In his only previous start against the Rockies, last July 6 at Coors Field, the right-hander allowed six hits and two runs with one walk and six strikeouts in five innings of a 6-3 win.