Antone, Mahle off to tremendous starts in '21

April 22nd, 2021

CINCINNATI -- It’s pretty clear that Reds pitcher has taken well to his role as a reliever for high-leverage situations and multiple innings. Heading into Thursday, Antone has a 0.84 ERA with a 14.34 strikeouts per nine innings ratio (17 strikeouts in only 10 2/3 innings) in six appearances.

Antone has allowed one earned run with four hits overall, and he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts during Wednesday’s 8-5 loss to Arizona. On Tuesday, he threw a hitless seventh inning but gave up a leadoff homer to Andrew Young for the tying run in the eighth inning.

It was important for Antone to get the ball again from manager David Bell on Wednesday.

“Not only that, but the confidence that David has in me,” Antone said on Thursday. “There’s a lot of talented arms in the bullpen, so for him to turn to me again after just having given up a lead in the previous game is very reassuring to myself going forward.”

If there’s been one knock on Antone in the young season, it’s his four walks against his first batter faced in games.

“I always walk the first guy for some reason. I don’t know why,” Antone said. “I think it’s just settling in, making it click on the mound. I really do wish I could make it click a lot faster. It would be a lot less stressful for me. Knowing you have base open gives you the leeway.”

Antone has leaned more on his breaking ball. According to Statcast, 12 of his 26 pitches Wednesday were curveballs, and they produced a 40 percent swing rate. He’s thrown the pitch 32.6 percent of the time this season, compared to 36.4 percent for his sinker. In 2020, Antone used his curveball 16.7 percent of the time.

It’s a tough change of speed for hitters. Antone's curveball averages 80 mph, while his sinker is averaging 96.5 mph.

“If you look at statistically the numbers, I like to play the statistics games,” Antone said. “My swings and misses and my soft contact are on my breaking balls, and typically my harder-hit balls that I give up are off the fastball. Not to say my fastball is not good, but I just need to set it up a little bit better and I need to get ahead with the offspeed stuff. Just kind of to protect my fastball, and I felt like I did a really good job of that last night, getting ahead in counts with the breaking ball. It doesn’t give the hitter an easy job. They have to pick one pitch or the other. As soon they start sitting on the offspeed stuff, blowing 96 by them is not easy to catch up to.”

Tough no-decision, but great start for Mahle
A very strong performance Wednesday by Reds starting pitcher was rendered moot when Amir Garrett blew a three-run save in the ninth inning to Arizona. Mahle struck out nine in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, and he allowed only two infield hits, two walks and hit a batter.

“I felt really good,” Mahle said. “We’re able to attack the zone and get guys to swing and miss. I mean, Tyler [Stephenson] actually did a great job of giving me good targets, especially on my slider. He would kind of give it off to the side and he’d just give me really good targets that helped me a lot.”

Mahle is off to a tremendous first month of 2021 with a 1.74 ERA through four starts. In 20 2/3 innings, he has given up nine hits and nine walks with 31 strikeouts.

“He's taking really big steps from the last month of last season, offseason, Spring Training and then leading into this year. He keeps getting better,” Bell said. “He's very talented and has a great fastball. He's developed his other pitches to go with it. It's all coming together for him right now.”