Last week,who gave up no hits over nine innings. Today, we do the same for one who allowed none over 7 1/3.
And yet still took the loss.
That's how bad the Reds are. They needed Hunter Greene to be perfect. Of course, his 1-6 record has as much to do with his own shortcomings given that his ERA still sits at 6.21. But between this start and last, he seems to have discovered something that may propel him to future success.
For all the hoopla over his fastball, which routinely exceeds triple digits, his slider is actually his best pitch.
CIN Cincinnati • #21 • Age: 22
Greene has already had more than his share of up and downs in just seven starts. His trademark velocity abandoned him for a stretch in late April, but the low point actually came when he got it back on May 5. The Brewers still pounded for five home runs, which suggested he needed to do something different. He got the message and went from throwing his slider about one-third of the time to one-half next time out, also against the Brewers. He upped the usage to 55 percent in this one. It was responsible for 11 of his 15 swinging strikes. Of course, he still issued a combined nine walks in those two starts, which is how he ended up with the loss Sunday, so he remains a work in progress. But at least there's progress from a pitcher whose upside is apparent.
Yuli Gurriel 1B
HOU Houston • #10 • Age: 38
Yuli Gurriel is the defending AL batting champ, having hit .319 last year, which made his slow start sting all the more. But his strikeout rate hasn't bloated from its usual 10-15 percent range, and given his track record as a contact hitter, it was safe to assume he'd eventually come around. This weekend may have been the start of it. In three games, he went 8 for 12 with two homers and two doubles. He doesn't offer the big power potential of some first basemen, but his lineup context helps to elevate his stock -- as does his contact rate in points leagues, where he was 12th-best at the position on a per-game basis last year.
COL Colorado • #7 • Age: 25
As the weather warms up, offense is picking up -- and at a rapid pace. Brendan Rodgers was another one of this weekend's beneficiaries, coming back from a bruised hand to go 7 for 14 with a home run and three doubles. In fact, for all of May, he's now hitting .370 (17 for 46). It's a stark turnaround for a former top prospect who finally showed signs of breaking through last year and gets to enjoy all the benefits Coors Field has to offer. Seeing as he'll have a full slate of games there this week, now may be your last shot at him.
Alek Thomas CF
ARI Arizona • #92 • Age: 22
The consensus top-40 prospect has come in and enjoyed the immediate success that top-five types like Bobby Witt and Spencer Torkelson haven't, making consistently hard contact while keeping his strikeouts low. The power, albeit over a small sample, has been encouraging as well, especially seeing as his home run was a 414-foot shot to the opposite field. Speed is also a big part of his skill set even though he doesn't have a stolen base yet. Most of all, though, it's the immediacy of his contributions that makes him an enticing pickup at a time when fewer and fewer high-profile call-ups are living up to their potential right away.
Juan Yepez LF
STL St. Louis • #36 • Age: 24
Speaking of prospects making immediate contributions, Juan Yepez might be the most affirming of all, though the irony is that he wasn't a particularly high-profile call-up. That's more because of his defensive limitations than his hitting capabilities. He broke through with a .969 OPS between two stops last year and had already homered nine times in 22 games prior to his call-up this year. The Cardinals seem committed to playing him, warts and all, having started him in all 11 games since he arrived. He has hit safely in nine of them, most recently going 2 for 4 with a walk Sunday.
Max Meyer RP
MIA Miami • #63 • Age: 23
All this time, we've been assuming Elieser Hernandez was Max Meyer's ticket to the majors, but now Jesus Luzardo is on the IL with a forearm strain. It's not expected to sideline him for long, but that's an injury with a bad trajectory, which only raises the chances of the Marlins needing Meyer sooner than later. There are no immediate plans for him to take Luzardo's spot, and a bad outing at Triple-A Friday surely didn't help. But better to stash him before the announcement comes than have to compete with everyone for him afterward.
Martin Perez SP
TEX Texas • #54 • Age: 31
Sunday's outing against the Red Sox marked five straight quality starts, all allowing one earned run or fewer, from a pitcher with a career 4.63 ERA. Martin Perez isn't missing any more bats than in the past, but he is allowing weaker contact, his 2.37 xERA backing up his actual one. He's also leaning into his ground-ball tendencies unlike he has in years, throwing his sinker nearly 40 percent of the time. It's still unlikely he's more than a matchups play in the long run, but in an environment that's considerably improved for pitchers, it's possible his skills play up.
Aaron Ashby SP
MIL Milwaukee • #26 • Age: 24
Though Aaron Ashby was actually working in relief in this game, he made his strongest case yet to step into the rotation full-time. So far, he's served as something like a sixth starter, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen as days off have dictated, and the results have been lackluster. Part of the reason was a reduction in velocity. Only in this outing did he begin to resemble the pitcher who generated so much excitement last year, his velocity jumping 1-2 mph across the board, and he was near untouchable as a result. No one's saying Ashby has to remain in a swingman role, particularly if Adrian Houser continues to falter.