NEW YORK -- With loud cheers from his family and friends in attendance from his hometown of Southington, Conn., easily audible at Citi Field on Tuesday, Reds pitcher Sal Romano did not disappoint. Romano pitched into the seventh inning as Cincinnati claimed a 6-1 victory over the Mets.In six-plus innings,
NEW YORK -- With loud cheers from his family and friends in attendance from his hometown of Southington, Conn., easily audible at Citi Field on Tuesday, Reds pitcher Sal Romano did not disappoint. Romano pitched into the seventh inning as Cincinnati claimed a 6-1 victory over the Mets.
In six-plus innings, Romano allowed one earned run and two hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of his 24 batters. Tied for third in the National League in home runs surrendered with 21, the right-hander also kept the ball in the ballpark.
"Huge, strike one, getting ahead, always being ahead," Romano said." Tucker [Barnhart] called a great ballgame back there. I used all of my pitches effectively. It was a really good job executing what we wanted to do."
As storm clouds brewed, thunder clapped and lightning flashed to oohs and aahs from fans, the Reds moved quickly against Mets starter Jason Vargas in the first inning. Jose Peraza reached on a single to begin the game, stole second base and took third base on a dropped third strike to Brandon Dixon. It proved important when he scored on Scooter Gennett's RBI single. After a Eugenio Suarez ground-rule double, the skies opened with showers that brought a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay.
It proved critical as Vargas was unable to resume. Romano, on the other hand, had yet to throw a pitch. He was fully warmed up before the game and had to do a second warm-up ahead as the field was prepared.
"I felt pretty strong. I only threw 28-30 pitches warming up in the bullpen before," Romano said. "I stayed warm inside. I knew I was going to go back out. I wanted to stay as loose as possible."
A Phillip Ervin sacrifice fly and a Barnhart RBI single against Paul Sewald once play resumed ensured Romano would have a 3-0 lead before taking the mound.
Romano responded with an eight-pitch, perfect bottom of the first inning. His only run allowed came with two outs in the second when Brandon Nimmo hit a double to deep right-center field and scored on Jose Bautista's RBI single to left-center field. Romano followed by retiring the next eight batters in a row.
Of the first 12 outs Romano recorded, seven came via ground balls. According to Statcast™, 42 of his 84 pitches in the game were sinkers. It garnered eight swings-and-misses, 11 fouls and nine balls in play.
"It had a lot of movement on it today," Romano said. "I was kind of backing off a little bit on it. I think it was a little bit slower than it normally is, maybe 93-94 [mph]. But I was able to get a decent amount of movement in on righties and that comeback one to lefties, too."
Romano had only 74 pitches through six innings and returned for the seventh. But he was taken out after opening with back-to-back walks.
"He really threw good. He got ground balls early on today," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "As opposed to getting ground balls deeper in the game, he got ground balls early. He warmed up twice, so he was at his limit. Maybe I shouldn't have sent him out there for the seventh. He really did a nice job, set up our bullpen good."
Because of the All-Star break and a six-man rotation, Romano has been used both as a starter and reliever in the second half. In four games, including three starts, he has a 3.50 ERA. Overall, he is 7-9 with a 4.94 ERA in 24 games with 22 starts.
Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and Amir Garrett combined for the final three scoreless innings. The Reds stopped a three-game losing streak and are 2-6 on their road trip with one game remaining.
The cheering for Romano didn't end at the game's conclusion. Born in nearby Syosset, N.Y., he grew up in Connecticut, about two hours from Queens. He estimated that he had about 200 people at the game to watch. Several minutes after the game ended, he spent time on the field with roughly 60 people who congratulated him for his effort.
"It's always nice to look up and see all of that red here and knowing that they're all here for me," Romano said. "It's really, really nice to have the support that I do back home. And for all of them to come down and travel like that, and I pitch a good ballgame for them and get a win, is a good feeling."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the top of the third inning, Ervin effectively secured the game for Cincinnati. With Gennett on first base and two outs, Ervin attacked a 2-1 fastball from reliever Bobby Wahl for a two-run homer to left-center field and a 5-1 lead that gave him three RBIs in the game. It was Ervin's second homer of the season. In his 17 games since being recalled on July 20 to fill in for injured outfielders Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler, Ervin is batting .405 (17-for-42).
"I'm very happy with the way I've been playing lately," Ervin said. "I'm just very excited about the opportunity. I'm pleased with myself for taking advantage of this opportunity."
HE SAID IT
"I don't have any concern about that. Those are tough decisions. We've had many where we have not played and sat there an hour-and-a-half while it didn't rain. I kind of like; 'Let's play,' unless it's horrendous looking. If you think you've got a chance to play a few innings, you've got to do it. You play three, it might turn into six." -- Riggleman, on the decision to start the game on time before stopping it for the rain delay 16 minutes after first pitch
"We get a forecast; the grounds-crew guys come in and tell us. We're on the phone with Major League Baseball; they have their forecast. We're looking at ours. It was basically given to me that it was going to maybe hit us, maybe not hit us. And it won't probably hit us until 7:45 or 8:00 if it hits us at all. That was the reason why we started the game. And the reason why we stopped was the lightning. That's the reason why we pulled them off." -- Crew chief Kerwin Danley, on the umpiring crew's decision to start the game
For the series finale at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Robert Stephenson will make his season debut as he's being called up from Triple-A Louisville to fill a rotation vacancy. Stephenson was 11-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 20 starts for Louisville, but went 6-0 with a 1.23 ERA over his last seven starts. The Mets will be countering with Jacob deGrom, who has a 1.85 ERA despite a 5-7 record.
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.