CHICAGO –– Entering the bottom of the fourth inning on Wednesday night, Cincinnati Reds starter Hunter Greene hadn’t shown any signs that he was wearing down.
Greene’s fastball was averaging close to 100 mph, and he had hit 102. He had allowed a run, but he had also struck out five batters. He was efficient, productive, and looked like he was on his way to another solid outing.
But after Greene threw 33 pitches in the fourth inning, he didn’t get a shot at pitching in the fifth. Reds manager David Bell pulled Greene from the game after just 80 pitches as the Chicago Cubs beat the Reds, 8-3, at Wrigley Field.
"You never want to throw that many pitches in an inning," Greene said. "I talked to (Bell) and that’s why he took me out. That was definitely tough, but being able to finish strong and get a strikeout at the end (of the fourth) was big instead of walking or giving up another hit.”
It was the fewest pitches Greene had thrown in a start since June 1. But in all of the other short starts for Greene, he was struggling with command, velocity or preventing the home run ball.
Greene wasn’t dealing with any of those issues for most of the game on Wednesday, especially before the fourth inning. He walked two batters in the fourth and allowed an RBI double to Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner, which gave Chicago a 3-0 lead.
"There’s certain nights that I’m going to let him pitch late into the game and do whatever we can to win a game," Bell said. "He needs that. We want him out there to do that. Tonight wasn’t the night for a variety of reasons, mainly just the score, the amount of pitches he had to throw, he threw four innings, and how hard he had to work."
After that double, Greene retired the next three batters he faced and was still throwing 99 mph fastballs. He ended the inning by getting Cubs second baseman David Bote to swing and miss at an 88 mph slider on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
The key was likely the 33 pitches he needed to complete the inning. Bell has said that he almost never would like to see a pitcher throw more than 40 pitches in an inning. As Greene was pushing that pitch count in the fourth, Luis Cessa started warming up in the bullpen.
"It just wasn’t really the night for Hunter to have to work really hard, go back out and try to go deep into the game," Bell said. "Fortunately we got him out after four, he had only thrown 80 pitches. The reason for that was the at-bats that the Cubs had. (He) really had to work a little extra hard today."
Bell’s decision to remove Greene early in the game was one day after Luis Castillo threw a career-high 123 pitches in a win over the Cubs. After Tuesday’s game, Bell made a related point about his decision to let Castillo pitch as long as he did.
“I feel like we make decisions all along over the years where you try to hold them back and not allow them to throw too many pitches or too many innings in games that may not matter,” Bell said. “If you can, you try to conserve for nights like (Castillo’s start on Tuesday) to be able to let him go and be able to let him pitch.”
On Wednesday, Greene had that game where he didn’t get to throw a lot of pitches. He allowed three runs and just two hits across four innings. Cessa entered the game for the fifth inning and allowed a two-run homer as the Cubs took a 5-0 lead.
“I walked two hitters and one hit (in the fourth) and that scores them," Greene said. "I’m trying to limit my walks and make sure that doesn’t happen. It makes it a lot easier for the outcome not to come out that way off of one hit. I felt really good with my body. There were times I felt like I overthrew a little bit, got a little jumpy and didn’t do the best of doubling up on my pitches. That’s kind of the takeaway from today.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds lose to Cubs as Hunter Greene pulled after 80 pitches