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Stephenson nabs 1st win, focused on fixes

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Robert Stephenson didn't have his best stuff against the Braves on Saturday night, but he had enough to help the Reds to an 11-8 victory. As a result, the Reds clinched the series against the Braves and will go for the series sweep on Sunday at SunTrust Park.

Stephenson went five innings and allowed two runs en route to his first win since April 19, 2016. He had to battle out of trouble a few times but pitched around his mistakes to keep the Reds in the game.

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ATLANTA -- Robert Stephenson didn't have his best stuff against the Braves on Saturday night, but he had enough to help the Reds to an 11-8 victory. As a result, the Reds clinched the series against the Braves and will go for the series sweep on Sunday at SunTrust Park.

Stephenson went five innings and allowed two runs en route to his first win since April 19, 2016. He had to battle out of trouble a few times but pitched around his mistakes to keep the Reds in the game.

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"At the end of the day, you can't be too mad at a win," Stephenson said. "It was not exactly what I was looking for as it wasn't my strongest performance, and I can be better than that."

Stephenson wasn't happy with the little things in his start, like a throwing error in the first inning, or not being able to put a bunt down when the team needed it.

But he also recognized those things are correctable and thanked his teammates for having his back on the field. He felt the performance is something that he can build on moving forward.

"The team did a good job picking me up and made some really nice plays defensively," Stephenson said.

Entering Saturday, Stephenson was 0-2 with a 5.28 ERA over three starts. He struggled with his command during that time, allowing 11 walks in 15 1/3 innings.

He demonstrated more control against the Braves -- issuing three walks -- and was more aggressive around the strike zone.

"I think my splitter was really good tonight and I was able to get some big outs with that," Stephenson said. "The fastball command wasn't really there, but at times it was down in the zone and I was able to get outs. Moving forward, I want to be able to repeat that and pound the zone."

According to Statcast™, Stephenson threw 42 fastballs in 75 pitches, and kept hitters off-balance with his slider. He caused six swinging strikes and he avoided trouble spots by inducing groundouts.

Stephenson also snapped a streak of losing seven consecutive decisions during a 23-game stretch that included nine starts. Reds manager Bryan Price was confident Stephenson will continue to improve as the season goes on.

"There is some continued work that we will be doing, but I thought that he made progress today," Price said. "He had three really good pitches and made some big pitches with the slider and split. He still needs to harness everything, and command the strike zone to get away from a 48-52 percent ball-strike ratio, to where he can throw fewer pitches and get balls in play earlier."

"There were positives and negatives and I want to build off it and try to keep improving every single start," Stephenson said. "So that next year I can make a claim to take a rotation spot."

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

Cincinnati Reds, Robert Stephenson