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Romano squanders early support as Reds fall

Righty's struggles continue in series-opening loss
MLB.com @m_sheldon

DENVER -- While Sal Romano was pitching for the Reds on Friday night vs. the Rockies at Coors Field, Anthony DeSclafani was winding down what was likely his penultimate rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville. This is notable because when the Reds are ready to activate DeSclafani, someone will have to come out of their rotation to make room.

Over his last three starts, including during Friday's 5-4 defeat to Colorado, Romano hasn't helped his own cause. In 5 1/3 innings, he gave up five earned runs and eight hits with four walks and five strikeouts. The right-hander was furious with himself, especially because of two walks to Tony Wolters, who came into the game hitting .130. The first one in the third inning came with the bases loaded. The second one, in the sixth, led to the go-ahead run.

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DENVER -- While Sal Romano was pitching for the Reds on Friday night vs. the Rockies at Coors Field, Anthony DeSclafani was winding down what was likely his penultimate rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville. This is notable because when the Reds are ready to activate DeSclafani, someone will have to come out of their rotation to make room.

Over his last three starts, including during Friday's 5-4 defeat to Colorado, Romano hasn't helped his own cause. In 5 1/3 innings, he gave up five earned runs and eight hits with four walks and five strikeouts. The right-hander was furious with himself, especially because of two walks to Tony Wolters, who came into the game hitting .130. The first one in the third inning came with the bases loaded. The second one, in the sixth, led to the go-ahead run.

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"Absolutely, you can't walk him. Twice, I did it. It's unacceptable. It cost us the game," Romano said.

Over three starts since May 14, Romano has given up 18 earned runs, 22 hits and 12 walks with 13 strikeouts over only 12 ⅔ innings. That sent his ERA from 3.83 to 5.89 while posting an overall record of 2-6.

"I'm not executing my fastball the way I should. It wasn't sinking as much today," Romano said. "The grip of the ball was cutting a little bit on me. It's fastball location, really. I feel like my offspeed stuff was there. I have to be able to pitch off of my fastball. My sinker has been my pitch the last three years and if I don't have it, it's tough."

Cincinnati staked Romano to leads of 2-0 in the top of the first inning against Jon Gray and 4-1 in the top of the third. Colorado got a two-out solo homer from Nolan Arenado on a 95 mph sinker in the first inning, but Eugenio Suarez's two-run homer in the third gave Romano some room to work.

But after he faced nine batters in a three-run third inning that featured three walks, Romano seemed poised for a quick hook. He gave up a two-run single to Gerardo Parra and a bases-loaded walk to Wolters made it a 4-4 game.

A groove appeared to be found following a pair of one-out hits in the Rockies' fourth. Romano got Arenado to ground into an inning-ending double play and had a nine-pitch perfect fifth inning that had him at 71 pitches.

The Rockies' sixth began poorly for Romano, however, as he walked Wolters for the second time -- on five pitches.

"I was disappointed in the walk in the sixth," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "Hitters love to hit in this ballpark. Guys are going to be swinging and he didn't put anything close enough for him to swing at and ended up walking the guy."

Video: CIN@COL: Schebler plates Votto in the 1st

With one out and Wolters on second base, pinch-hitter Noel Cuevas drove an RBI triple to the right-field corner to give Colorado its go-ahead run.

"I started him out with a slider, away," Romano said. "He stayed on it pretty good and I didn't get it as outside as I wanted to. It was a good pitch for me all day. It got us out of some situations with it and I got some strikeouts. I feel like my stuff, the way I felt, was better than my numbers today. But still, another loss."

As he completes his rehab from a strained left oblique suffered in Spring Training, DeSclafani didn't fare well for Louisville. He gave up six earned runs over five innings while throwing 93 pitches. Despite being eligible for activation on Monday, indications are he will get one more start in the Minors. Making the Reds' decision tougher is Romano isn't the only one not pitching well.

Tyler Mahle has given up eight earned runs over his last two starts, while totaling 9 1/3 innings. Homer Bailey is 1-6 with a 6.21 ERA in 11 starts, putting the club in the tough dilemma of deciding whether it should move a pitcher making $21 million this season into the bullpen.

A good, strong start is the best way to remove any doubt. Romano could have used one of those on Friday.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Suarez stays hot: In the top of the third inning with one out on an 0-1 pitch from Gray, Suarez connected for a two-run homer. It was his ninth homer of the season and second in two days. With 40 RBIs, Suarez now has sole possession of the National League lead. During his four-game hitting streak, he is 6-for-15.

Video: CIN@COL: Suarez clubs a 2-run homer to center field

"Suarez is doing a great job for us and played a good third base again. Suarez is a ballplayer. He's a good one," Riggleman said.

HE SAID IT
"We had a lead. In this ballpark, it was so early that we know we had to add on runs and we didn't. Both clubs actually had chances to add on runs and missed those opportunity. I certainly didn't think it was going to be a 5-4 ballgame. It looked like it had the makings of a 10-8 game." -- Riggleman, on the Reds failing to capitalize on their scoring chances

UP NEXT
Tied with Bailey for most home runs allowed in the National League (13), Mahle could be challenged in the thin air at Coors Field on Saturday when he starts vs. the Rockies at 9:10 p.m. ET. Mahle gave up a career-high three homers for four earned runs allowed over six innings in Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Cubs. Opposing Mahle will be left-hander Tyler Anderson.

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.

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