After loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth of a scoreless game, Mahle was set to face Andrew McCutchen. This is not a vintage 'Cutch season, but he remains a dangerous hitter, even when slumping, and a viable threat to the likes of an untested 22-year-old.
McCutchen swung and missed at Mahle's first heater, high in the strike zone and clocked at 95 mph. He fouled off another high fastball, this one at 94. And on the third fastball, at 96, the former National League MVP flied weakly to left field.
Mahle, the ninth rookie pitcher to start for the Reds this season, said he was "a lot more calm" this time than in his first start, in which he gave up three runs in five innings, walking four in a 6-0 Reds loss.
"I threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings," said Mahle. "But I was able to calm down, be myself and pound the zone."
Mahle said working his way out of jams is nothing new for him. But this was not the Minors; he was facing the Pirates' best-known player, if not still their best.
"I've faced him six times now," he said. "I'm not saying I figured him out but I know what I have to do. … It's definitely good to be able to be calm and make the pitches."
Drafted out of a Southern California high school in the seventh round in 2013, the right-hander has had some big moments in the Minors. He tossed a no-hitter in Class A in 2016 and a perfect game in Double-A this April.
"I'm impressed with his demeanor and his presence, and that it hasn't changed going from Double-A to Triple-A, Triple-A to the big leagues," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's doing exactly what we read in the [Minor League] reports. He's coming right after hitters and attacking the zone and not backing down to anybody.
"He's seeing the same lineup for a second time -- there aren't a lot of secrets now -- and he just steps up. It's two games, and you don't want to make too much out of it. In the same respect, the kid looks like he belongs here."
Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.