ATLANTA (AP) — Hunter Greene felt a bit anxious before making his first career start. Even so, the hard-throwing phenom had no trouble settling down early.
“Honestly, it felt like just another game,” he said. “It’s great to have that. Obviously you have butterflies, and I think that’s important. It means you care. It means you want to do well.”
Greene won his major league debut, Kyle Farmer hit a two-run single in a five-run third inning and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Atlanta Braves 6-3 on Sunday.
Greene (1-0) lived up to his billing as a top prospect with overpowering velocity. He regularly touched 100 mph on the radar gun, topped out at 102 in the fourth and was still hitting triple digits in his final inning. The right-hander allowed three runs, four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
“I felt great out there,” Greene said. “I felt like I was at home. A lot of people don’t look up, but I looked up as soon as I got out there. I wanted to take it all in and enjoy it, but I felt really comfortable out there. Really happy with today. The team did a great job behind me getting the lead early. Put me in a really good position to win and succeed today.”
The Reds took a 5-0 lead in the third. Jonathan India walked and scored from first when Tyler Naquin doubled to the right-field corner. Braves starter Ian Anderson (0-1) loaded the bases on a pair of walks, giving up two more runs on a forceout and Colin Moran’s single. Sean Newcomb then gave up a two-run single to Farmer.
Tyler Stephenson made it 6-1 in the fifth with a homer to left off Newcomb.
Greene, at 22 years, 247 days, became the youngest starting pitcher to make his debut for Cincinnati since Mike Leake received no decision on April 11, 2010, against the Chicago Cubs.
Greene mixed in his changeup and slider to keep the Braves guessing.
“I was really happy (with the slider) today,” he said. “That was kind of a battle in spring training. It’s nice to find that, especially in the first game. I was like, I don’t have a choice. I need to find it. It was there. That was a nice feeling knowing that was in my back pocket. Just keeping those guys off balance, you know? Being able to slow the game down and just read swings helped a lot today.”
Greene, the second overall draft pick in 2017, is the Reds’ top prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 2 according to Baseball America. He missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“We pushed him a little bit in the fifth to get him through that fifth inning, but he was still throwing the ball well and I think he put forth effort, but not max effort, so he didn’t have to work too hard,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It was great for our bullpen. It set us up for the rest of the game.”
Matt Olson whiffed on a 100 mph fastball in the first for Greene’s first career strikeout, but Olson singled on a 102 mph fastball to begin the fourth for Atlanta’s first hit. After Austin Riley doubled, Olson scored on Marcell Ozuna’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-1.
Travis d’Arnaud and Olson homered in the fifth off Greene to trim the lead to 6-3. It marked Olson’s first homer since he replaced Freddie Freeman as the Braves’ everyday first baseman after getting traded from Oakland and signing a $168 million, eight-year contract.
Olson connected on a 101 mph pitch, the second-fastest any Braves player has homered off in the pitch-tracking era since 2008. Eddie Rosario homered off a 101.2 mph heater from Brusdar Graterol last Sept. 1.
Anderson, making his first start since pitching five hitless innings to win Game 3 of the World Series, allowed a career-high five runs, five walks and three hits in 2 2/3 innings.
“That’s where I feel like I am at, trying to get back to feeling comfortable in a big league game again,” Anderson said. “As the season goes on, I’ll be fine and settle in, but for now I’m trying to get my feet back under me.”
Luis Cessa pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief, Tony Santillan got four outs and Art Warren worked the ninth for Cincinnati. Bell brought in Santillan, who earned his first career save Thursday, in the seventh to face Rosario with a runner on first and the Reds sitting on a three-run lead with Olson, who went 3 for 4, on deck.
Rosario popped up to end the threat. Warren earned his first career save by facing the minimum.
Each team won twice in the four-game series to open the season.
Reds LHP Mike Minor (left shoulder) will make a rehab start Wednesday at Double-A Chattanooga. … Cincinnati RHP Luis Castillo (right shoulder) will play catch on the off day Monday and is scheduled for another bullpen session Tuesday. … Reds 2B Donovan Solano (left hamstring) ran Saturday and took grounders on Sunday.
Farmer, the Cincinnati shortstop, retired the final two batters of the sixth with over-the-shoulder catches in shallow left and center.
Greene reached 100 mph with 20 pitches, tied for eighth-most among starting pitchers in any game since pitch tracking started in 2008. He trailed only Jacob deGrom (33 and 28), Nathan Eovaldi (28), Yordano Ventura (26), Noah Syndergaard (24 and 21) and James Paxton (24), and tied Sandy Alcántara.
Reds RHP Tyler Mahle (1-0) will make his second start Tuesday in Cincinnati’s home opener opposite Cleveland RHP Shane Bieber (0-0).