Newcomb (2-7) gave up five hits and five walks (one intentional) in five innings Sunday and matched his career low with two strikeouts, but the rookie left-hander again showed a penchant for getting out of trouble when he stranded eight runners in a three-inning span.
It was the fifth time in his past eight starts that Newcomb had at least four walks, but he wasn’t missing by much Sunday and his catcher and manager weren’t as concerned by the walks total this time as they were in some previous games.
“I felt like they were different kind of walks; they were competitive pitches, they weren’t just a bunch of blatant misses or four straight (balls),” Flowers said. “Lot of them were quality pitches, a ball (width) off, in or out, or a ball down. I like those walks a lot better than the other ones. But I thought he had a pretty good feel, thought he did a good job.”
The Reds left the bases loaded in both the third and fifth innings and stranded two in the fourth.
“(Newcomb) has got a knack of staying in there and not letting things get out of hand,” Snitker said. “I just love the way he competes. He’s not perfect but he never gives in, and the stuff’s live. There’s stuff he’s going to have to work his way through and experience, but you look and there’s a lot there to like.”
In his last start Tuesday at Colorado, Newcomb snapped a string of seven consecutive Braves losses in his outings when he pitched six solid innings – three runs, all on solo homers — but got no decision in a 4-3 win. Sunday he snapped his string of losses in five consecutive decisions with his first win since June 27, when he won at San Diego in his fourth start.
The Reds had bases loaded with one out in the third inning of a scoreless game when 5-foot-7 rookie second baseman Ozzie Albies leaped high to snare a Joey Votto line drive. Then Newcomb went to the ground fielding an Adam Duvall grounder but still managed to make an awkward but accurate, inning-ending toss to first base while on his chest and stomach.
Flowers’ slam came on just the fourth pitch thrown in a four-batter span by Storen to start the fifth inning, after Reds starter Luis Castillo threw 90 pitches in four busy innings that included four hits, two runs, two walks and eight strikeouts.
“We were ready to get that Castillo guy out of there,” Flowers said, smiling. “He’s got some good stuff. Yeah, we put it together (against Storen). The guys ahead of me put up good at-bats to even give me a chance to do something, and then it continued after that, too.”
The Braves had gone 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in four innings against Castillo but vented some frustrations in that category against Storen, who was Washington’s closer in 2015.
Storen came on to start the fifth and gave up a first-pitch leadoff single to Phillips, first-pitch ground-rule double to Freddie Freeman and intentionally walked Nick Markakis, which requires only a signal this year instead of the four pitches of the past.
Flowers’ bases-loaded blast on an 0-1 pitch was the second grand slam of his career – the other came with the White Sox at Seattle in 2011 – and the franchise-record ninth grand slam allowed by the Reds this season including two by Braves hitters. Matt Adams hit the other on June 3 at Cincinnati.
“Trying to hit a fly ball to right,” Flowers said. “It was a good approach to have off that guy, who’s a fastball-slider guy. If it was a fastball I was trying to hit a fly ball to right, get the guy in, get the guy over for the next guy behind me. And it was off-speed so I just caught it a little out in front.”
Storen retired Adams on a grounder for the first out of the fifth inning, but Albies restarted the hit parade with a first-pitch triple, thus giving Storen a hitting cycle (allowed) on just nine pitches. Dansby Swanson and Phillips added run-scoring singles in the inning before Storen was replaced with two out.
After getting a walk and hit-by-pitch to start the second inning but frittering away that scoring opportunity with three consecutive strikeouts from Adams, Albies and Swanson, the Braves had another scoring chance in the third after two-out singles from Phillips and Freeman. This time, they capitalized with a two-run double from Nick Markakis for a 2-0 lead.
That was their only hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position through four innings, but that would change once Storen entered the fray.