|9:10 AM PT10:10 AM MT11:10 AM CT12:10 PM ET12:10 ET16:10 GMT0:10 9:10 AM MST11:10 AM EST11:40 AM VEN20:10 UAE11:10 AM CT, August 8, 2018
Citi Field, Flushing, New York Attendance: 24,287
Reds' Stephenson faces Mets in first big-league start of year
NEW YORK -- Not every pitcher can be Jacob deGrom, who arrived in the big leagues just before his 25th birthday in 2014 and won the National League Rookie of the Year award while immediately becoming an ace-caliber pitcher for the New York Mets.
The Cincinnati Reds are hoping the third trip to the majors is the one in which Robert Stephenson develops into the top-of-the-rotation starter they desperately need.
Stephenson is scheduled to make his first big league start of the season Wednesday afternoon, when he takes the mound for the visiting Reds against deGrom and the Mets in the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Reds earned a 6-1 victory Tuesday night, when Sal Romano allowed two hits over six-plus innings and Scooter Gennett had three hits, including an RBI single that jump-started a three-run first inning.
Stephenson, a first-round pick of the Reds in 2011, will make his 34th big league appearance and 20th start. He is 7-9 with a 5.10 ERA over the previous two seasons, but Cincinnati is hopeful something clicked this season at Triple-A Louisville, where the 25-year-old right-hander was 11-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 20 starts.
He was particularly impressive in his final three starts, a span in which Stephenson allowed two runs on four hits over 20 innings. Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said he was told by the team's minor league evaluators that Stephenson has grown less reliant on his split-fingered fastball and has been using it to put away batters instead of as a set-up pitch.
"It's time to get him here," Riggleman said. "He's really done very well. The last five or six, couple really dominating starts. We've got to see what he can do."
If Stephenson is ready to turn a corner, the last-place Reds (50-64) may have an essential building block. Cincinnati sent three infielders to the All-Star Game this season but is on pace to finish 25th or worse in the majors in ERA for the fourth straight year.
"Robert's a guy that's been around a long time with us, up and down, and we're going to put him in the rotation and just see what he does with it," Riggleman said. "Because you could not ask a young guy to do anything more than what he's done."
If he wanted to, deGrom (5-7, 1.85 ERA) could ask the Mets (46-65) to reciprocate his effort. DeGrom, who leads the majors in ERA, is threatening to become the first pitcher in more than a century to finish with a sub-2.00 ERA and a losing record.
DeGrom hasn't won in his last seven starts, during which he has a 2.47 ERA while receiving eight runs of support while he's been on the mound. He has pitched at least eight innings without earning a win six times this season. No other starter this season has thrown eight innings more than four times, period.
"Obviously, we know that we haven't been scoring runs when Jacob pitches," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "It gets deeper (in the game) and then yeah, you do get a little frustrated and you start feeling that you're letting Jacob down a little bit."
DeGrom's hard luck may have reached its peak Friday, when he drove in the Mets' only run with an RBI single but still took the loss after he gave up two runs over eight innings as New York fell to the Atlanta Braves 2-1.
"Like I say every time when I go out there, I'm trying to put us in a position to win," deGrom said "And we just haven't won baseball games that I've been pitching, It's not like these guys aren't trying to put up runs. It just -- it seems like whenever I'm out there, we're not able to score enough runs to win the baseball game."
Stephenson is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in two career starts against the Mets. DeGrom is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three career starts against the Reds.
Updated August 8, 2018