KANSAS CITY -- Until Sal Romano delivered eight innings on Tuesday night for the Reds, the club had a 15-game streak without a quality start from its rotation. Now they've gotten them back to back as Tyler Mahle provided 6 1/3 scoreless innings for a 7-0 victory over the Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Until Sal Romano delivered eight innings on Tuesday night for the Reds, the club had a 15-game streak without a quality start from its rotation. Now they've gotten them back to back as Tyler Mahle provided 6 1/3 scoreless innings for a 7-0 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Mahle, who equaled his career high in innings pitched, gave up three hits and two walks with one strikeout as Cincinnati swept the two-game series.
"That's two impressive starts right there. That's impressive what they went out there and did," said Reds left fielder Adam Duvall, who capped the series with a grand slam in the ninth inning.
• Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
In his past three starts, Mahle is 2-0 with a 1.10 ERA with two earned runs over his last 16 1/3 innings.
"It's just nice to put a couple close together like that," Mahle said.
Over the past three games, the Reds' rotation has a 1.40 ERA -- no small feat for a group that ranked last in the Majors with a 5.68 ERA coming into the finale. Before Romano's one-run performance on Tuesday, Anthony DeSclafani worked into the sixth inning on Sunday against the Cardinals and gave up three runs (two earned). On Saturday, also against St. Louis, Luis Castillo completed six innings, but he gave up five earned runs. Matt Harvey did likewise on Friday.
"You get that, you're going to win ballgames. You're going to win your share anyway," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
Getting some depth from a rotation tied for 12th in the National League in innings helps Riggleman set up his bullpen more effectively.
"You can get some guys rest in your bullpen, but get them in there for a couple of hitters at a time instead of having to throw two innings at a time," Riggleman said. "We've got a good bullpen, but we've tested the limits on how much we've asked them to do. By getting these innings we've gotten lately from our starters, that's what we need."
Using his four-seam fastball on 52 of his 88 pitches, according to Statcast™, Mahle was effectively locating. He induced inning-ending double plays in both the first and second and then retired 13 of his next 15 batters. Only Whit Merrifield reached second base against him with a two-out double in the sixth inning.
Like in Tuesday's 5-1 win in 10 innings, it was a pitchers' duel for much of the night. In the top half of the seventh against Royals starter Jason Hammel, Jose Peraza hit a leadoff double to left field and became the first player in the game to reach third base when he advanced on a groundout from Joey Votto.
That forced Kansas City to bring in its infield with Scooter Gennett batting and the Reds caught a break. Gennett sharply grounded to shortstop Alcides Escobar, who muffed it for an error which scored the game's first run. After a Eugenio Suarez single, more defensive mayhem followed when Jesse Winker grounded out to Hunter Dozier at first base. Dozier touched the bag and his throw to second base for the double play bounced off Suarez's back for an error as Gennett scored.
"I made pitches when I needed to. Nothing different with the defense, they are always making plays behind me," said Mahle, who is 5-6 with a 3.96 ERA in 14 starts. "I was able to keep putting zeros up there and our team is always going to score at some point. It was nice to still be out there when they did."
The bullpen, which preserved the Reds' second shutout of the season and first since April 2, vs. the Cubs, was also rested from Monday's off-day and Romano's start on Tuesday. There's another off-day on Thursday.
"Tyler did a great job. The bullpen did a great job," Riggleman said. "We got some timely hits, good at-bats, good defense. It was a really well-played, well-pitched two ballgames here."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Reds blew the game open in the ninth inning when reliever Tim Hill loaded the bases, by not getting an out on Winker's sacrifice bunt with none out. Jason Adam took over and his first batter, Duvall, crushed a 2-2 pitch to left field for a grand slam. It was Duvall's third career grand slam and second this season. The Reds' four grand slams in 2018 are tied for second most in the Majors.
"He threw me a couple of curveballs early in the at-bat, but I knew he liked his heater. That's what I was looking for there," Duvall said.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The game was out of reach in the bottom of the ninth, but that didn't stop Hamilton from giving his all on defense. On a one-out drive to left-center by Alex Gordon with a runner on second, Hamilton made a long running catch before sliding hard into the wall. It was rated as a five-star catch by Statcast™ as he had to cover 98 feet in 4.9 seconds for a 18 percent catch probability. His sprint speed was 30.1 feet per second. It was Hamilton's third five-star catch of the season, tied for the Major League lead with four others.
HE SAID IT
"I'm really comfortable with him. I like him a lot back there. He has a good presence. He calls a good game. I don't think I'm too hard to call pitches for so it's easy for me to mend with guys. We mend really well." -- Mahle, on working with Curt Casali, who was acquired in a trade from the Rays on May 31
Following the off-day on Thursday, right-hander Matt Harvey will start for the Reds at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday as they open a three-game series against the Pirates at PNC Park. Harvey gave up three homers over his first three innings against the Cardinals during a 7-6 loss in 10 innings last Friday. But he settled down and pitched well over his final three innings. Right-hander Chad Kuhl will start for Pittsburgh.
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.