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Romano strong early, but Reds fall to Twins

MLB.com @m_sheldon

MINNEAPOLIS -- On the heels of the Reds' bullpen filling eight innings during Friday's win, Cincinnati needed one thing Saturday afternoon from Sal Romano: a nice, clean and deep start.

Romano seemed poised to provide just that after one time through the Twins' lineup. But it didn't last quite long enough, as the Reds were handed a 3-1 loss at Target Field. Romano was given the hook with two outs in a fifth inning after Mitch Garver led off with a homer to left field.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- On the heels of the Reds' bullpen filling eight innings during Friday's win, Cincinnati needed one thing Saturday afternoon from Sal Romano: a nice, clean and deep start.

Romano seemed poised to provide just that after one time through the Twins' lineup. But it didn't last quite long enough, as the Reds were handed a 3-1 loss at Target Field. Romano was given the hook with two outs in a fifth inning after Mitch Garver led off with a homer to left field.

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"I always want to be [out] as long as I can," Romano said. "I haven't had one of those really strong seven-inning outings. It's going to come. They were able to foul off a lot of pitches. I felt like I threw a decent amount of strikes, kind of missing down, which isn't a bad thing. I definitely threw more fastballs than I normally do. But I was behind on some of the hitters."

Romano allowed three runs (two earned), six hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings with one strikeout. He is 1-3 with a 4.65 ERA over his six starts. Part of his plan was to work inside with his fastball. Of his 89 pitches, 80 were fastballs according to Statcast™.

Video: CIN@MIN: Riggleman on loss, tough Twins lineup

"I was trying to hit that inside corner," Romano said. "I feel like I was missing the same every time, just little in. Sometimes you get those calls. Sometimes you don't. The last time, I was getting them."

Romano retired Minnesota in order over the first two innings, including a seven-pitch bottom of the first. But the pitch count began to really accelerate by the third (24 pitches) and fourth (27).

The Twins scored two in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead after Rosario hit a leadoff single and scored on an Escobar double to right field. Jesse Winker bobbled the ball for what proved to be a critical error that let Escobar reach third base. Two batters later, he scored on Robbie Grossman's sacrifice fly to right field.

Video: CIN@MIN: Peraza catches liner, turns two at second

A two-out walk in the fifth inning by Joe Mauer, followed by a Eddie Rosario single, had interim manager Jim Riggleman headed to the mound ready to use his bullpen.

"He skated through the first two innings so clean. Then the third and fourth, they made him throw so many pitches," Riggleman said. "There were a couple of stress innings with so many pitches, so many foul balls. He pitched out of trouble but I just didn't feel he would pitch out of trouble a third time. So I made the change."

Austin Brice struck out Escobar and then worked a scoreless sixth inning. After Brice departed, Dylan Floro added his own two scoreless innings for Cincinnati, which at least allowed the remaining relievers to rest for Sunday's finale.

"When you're down in a ballgame, you need a couple of guys to hold the score where it is. Brice and Floro did that," Riggleman said. "They've done it a couple of times before. That was huge because ... it allowed [us] not to use Jared Hughes, [Amir] Garrett, [Wandy] Peralta and [Raisel] Iglesias, who we like to use more when we're tied or ahead. That's where we need to get to."

Video: CIN@MIN: Brice strikes out Escobar to escape the jam

Cincinnati was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. Twins starter Jake Odorizzi avoided big innings; his lone blemish was a two-out home run to right field by Scott Schebler that gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.

Adam Duvall opened the seventh inning with a ground-rule double to chase Odorizzi, and Devin Mesoraco followed with a single against lefty reliever Zach Duke. But Duke was able to stop the rally by getting Billy Hamilton to pop out to first base. Winker struck out and Jose Peraza flied to right field.

Fernando Rodney's effort to close was erratic, with two walks that put the tying run on first base with one out. Batting for Hamilton, Tucker Barnhart popped out to second base, and Winker popped out to third base to end the game.

Video: CIN@MIN: Dozier backtracks to make a big catch

"You certainly would rather have the opportunities than not," Riggleman said. "We would have liked to have gotten one run out of both of those occasions. They made the necessary pitches to stifle us there. That's a tough one."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Romano allows a homer: Romano threw a 91-mph changeup to Garver as he led off the Twins' fifth. The pitch drifted up and caught enough of the plate that Garver was able to lift it to left field to put the Reds in a two-run deficit.

"He was pitching away my first at-bat. Everything was off the plate away or right on the corner," said Garver, who hit a double in the third inning. "The first at-bat I started leaning that way, and I looked to drive it the other way. They saw I could do that and so they went away my first pitch of my second at-bat, and I had a feeling he was coming in to get me off the plate a little bit. But it was just a pitch up and a little in."

Video: CIN@MIN: Garver drills a solo home run to left

HE SAID IT
"When I left the game, we were still in the game. The bullpen did a hell of a job as always, coming in and shutting the door. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win." -- Romano

UP NEXT
The Reds conclude their first series at Target Field at 2:10 p.m. ET Sunday. Tyler Mahle, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh of his previous start vs. the Braves before giving up three runs, will be back to face Twins righty Jose Berrios.

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Sal Romano