CINCINNATI -- The only people Sal Romano still needs to impress are the opposing hitters who haven't seen him yet.
Cincinnati's 23-year-old rookie right-hander shut down Pittsburgh for eight innings on Saturday during a 2-1 victory over the Pirates at Great American Ball Park.
With every start, Romano seems closer to solidifying his place in Cincinnati's 2018 starting rotation.
"When Sal first came up, he was trying to impress people at times and maybe getting too emotional on close pitches, things like that," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He has matured so rapidly in the months he's been here. He is all ears and wants to get better."
The numbers would seem to indicate that Romano is. Over his past six starts, spanning 38 2/3 innings, he has yielded just nine earned runs for a 2.10 ERA .
"You have to be confident," Romano said. "You have to thnk you're better than those hitters that day. Another thing is learning to trust [catcher] Tucker [Barnhart]. He knows more than I do. Even if I shake him off now and then, if he throws those fingers down a second time, I know I'm listening."
Barnhart has been able to observe firsthand the maturation of young pitchers like Romano and Luis Castillo, who have helped the Reds make strides over the past two months (23-21 in August and September).
"There has been a silver lining to almost all of their starts," Barnhart said. "[Romano] has grown a ton in the time he's been up here. It's easy when a guy is in control as much as he is."
Romano (5-6, 4.07 ERA) threw 74 of his 97 pitches for strikes in his longest outing of the season. He had not worked more than seven innings in any of his previous 13 starts.
It appeared Romano might not last nearly that long after starting the game with an 11-pitch battle against Pirates leadoff man Adam Frazier. He continued to pound the strike zone, however, and hung tough while waiting for the Reds hitters to solve opposing starter Ivan Nova. Jesse Winker's leadoff home run in the seventh put Cincinnati on top and Scooter Gennett followed with an RBI single that widened the gap to 2-0. Romano had thrown 90 pitches entering the eighth inning, but he dispatched the final three hitters he faced on seven pitches.