CINCINNATI -- A rough weekend vs. the Nationals stretched into Monday for the Reds in a way they didn't expect. Trouble came quickly as starter Scott Feldman displayed decreased fastball velocity and flat pitches that hitters jumped on easily.
Feldman exited after giving up five runs in the first inning, and the Reds went on to lose, 6-1, to Washington in a four-game sweep. After the game, Feldman said he has a sore right knee and is likely headed for the disabled list.
"I could never really get over the hump today. It didn't loosen up," Feldman said. "Not only was I making bad pitches, but they were coming in eight miles per hour slower than normal."
According to Statcast™, Feldman's fastball was averaging 85 mph. The first six batters reached, including a three-run homer by Bryce Harper, followed by a Ryan Zimmerman home run.
The Reds have known that Feldman had been bothered by a sore knee off and on this season.
"He got treatment and was able to pitch with it and pitch very effectively with it," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said.
Price went to the mound to visit Feldman, who was in a 3-0 count to Daniel Murphy. Feldman still felt like he could plow through, but he walked Murphy on the next pitch.
"I just wanted to look at him in the face," Price said. "He's been in this position before, but not to this degree. At the time, he said, 'Bryan, I've pitched like this before. It's not an issue. I'd like to continue to pitch.' I said, 'OK.' And by the end of the inning, I think it was just apparent … that it just wasn't a good idea to go back out."
Price turned to long reliever Asher Wojciechowski, and he got exactly what the Reds needed. Wojciechowski pitched five innings -- the first 4 2/3 of them scoreless -- with only a Brian Goodwin solo homer in the sixth inning.
Remarkably, Wojciechowski faced 15 batters before getting his first ground ball. Seven of his outs were infield popups, which according to Statcast™ tied the Rangers' A.J. Griffin for the most by any pitcher in a game this season
"Something that has worked well for me has been pitching at the top of the zone, using that to my advantage with how my fastball is and my other stuff is," Wojciechowski said. "I'd much rather get a weak popup than anything else."
The outing harkened back to Wojciechowski's Reds debut on May 20, when he worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief vs. the Rockies.
"We could have completely imploded our bullpen, exploded it, blown it up and been in real dire straits going into this next series," Price said. "Then Wojciechowski goes five innings of one-run ball, the bullpen goes eight innings of one-run ball."
It hasn't been decided who will replace Feldman in the rotation. He is 7-7 with a 4.34 ERA, but he has been one of the Reds' more dependable starters. Wojciechowski could be a contender for that spot on Saturday vs. the Marlins.
"There are a lot of options for us to look at at this point in time, and truth be told, I haven't thought at all about what our options are," Price said. "It was just trying to get through that game without killing the bullpen."
If not chosen, Wojciechowski could be designated for assignment because he's out of Minor League options. The Reds could need a fresh arm for long relief behind Sal Romano, who is being called up from Triple-A Louisville to start Tuesday. Wojciechowski won't be ready for a few days -- the downside of his strong effort.
"I'm just looking forward to whatever I can do to help the team," said Wojciechowski, who made four big league starts earlier this season. "It's been a tough series. We just lost four. Whatever I can do to help get us back on the winning side."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.