DENVER – Connor Overton, making his season debut Saturday, was pitching as well as any Cincinnati Reds starter all season, but he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to pitch deep into the game.
Overton was cruising for 5 1/3 innings. He allowed three hits and two walks, but no runner reached second base when he was on the mound. Called up from Triple-A Louisville after Nick Lodolo went on the 10-day injured list, Overton gave the Reds everything they could’ve wanted in a spot start.
Once Overton was set to face the Colorado Rockies lineup for the third time, Reds Manager David Bell signaled for reliever Art Warren in the bullpen.
Bell’s decision backfired in a 4-3 loss at Coors Field, the Reds’ fifth consecutive loss.
Overton left the mound with a two-run lead in the sixth inning and a runner on first base. He threw only 75 pitches. By the end of the inning, the Reds were trailing by two runs and needed to use a second reliever, Lucas Sims, to record the final out.
The Reds have a 3-18 record, matching the worst start in franchise history with their 2018 team. They’ve lost 16 of their last 17 games and are 0-6-1 in their seven series this season.
Warren didn’t have the usual bite on his slider, and it bit the Reds in the sixth inning. Four of the five batters he faced reached base. Warren’s outing started with a four-pitch walk. Then Charlie Blackmon tied the game when two runs scored on his double off the right-field wall, one run scoring when right field player Jake Fraley’s throw rolled away from infielders.
Two batters later, Ryan McMahon drilled a two-out, two-run triple into right field. And the damage was done.
The Reds need to score more than three runs to win games at Coors Field, but Overton gave them every chance to do it. The 28-year-old right-hander was a non-roster invitee to camp, signing with the Reds before the lockout, and a bout with food poisoning spoiled his chances to make a better impression.
Overton had command of his offspeed pitches – slider, changeup and curveball – and he was efficient in each inning. Catcher Aramis Garcia helped him with his strong arm, tossing out a runner at second base in the first inning and ending the third inning throwing behind a runner at first base, but Overton kept the ball on the ground in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
The Reds entered Saturday with a league-worst 8.42 ERA from their starting rotation. They had only one other start, Tyler Mahle on Opening Day, when the starting pitcher threw at least five innings without giving up an earned run.
Warren was warming up at the start of the fifth inning. Overton surrendered a single to his first batter, then induced a flyout to center. Then Overton received the hook and the Rockies lineup found life.
The Reds had a chance to extend their lead in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against Rockies starter Chad Kuhl. It turned into only one run through a double play and a flyout.
Kuhl pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings, exiting after surrendering a solo homer to Garcia.
Tyler Naquin homered on the game’s first pitch, a 375-foot drive over the left-field wall. It was just the fifth run the Reds have scored in the first inning in 21 games this season.
It wasn’t the first time Naquin homered on the game’s first pitch. He did it on April 7, 2021 when Kuhl was pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both homers were on fastballs and both homers went to left field.