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Mahle, bats lead Reds to first series victory

MLB.com @m_sheldon

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's going to take a while for the Reds to climb out of the very deep hole they dug for themselves this first month of the season. It won't happen all at once, but rather in small increments -- if they can sustain consistent hitting and pitching.

The Reds got both on Sunday and finally got a series win. With an 8-2 victory over the Twins, while collecting 14 hits at Target Field, they took two of three games in Minnesota. Looking over the last week, Cincinnati, now 7-21 on the year, posted a 4-3 record against Atlanta and Minnesota, while scoring 51 runs. (The Reds also won a one-game, rain-shortened series over the Cubs the first week of the season.)

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MINNEAPOLIS -- It's going to take a while for the Reds to climb out of the very deep hole they dug for themselves this first month of the season. It won't happen all at once, but rather in small increments -- if they can sustain consistent hitting and pitching.

The Reds got both on Sunday and finally got a series win. With an 8-2 victory over the Twins, while collecting 14 hits at Target Field, they took two of three games in Minnesota. Looking over the last week, Cincinnati, now 7-21 on the year, posted a 4-3 record against Atlanta and Minnesota, while scoring 51 runs. (The Reds also won a one-game, rain-shortened series over the Cubs the first week of the season.)

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"If you look at our record, you can't win seven ball games in one day as much as you want to, mindset-wise," Reds outfielder Scott Schebler said. "You have to take it one game at a time, and eventually look up and hopefully be in a better spot [than] we are in right now."

On the heels of taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning vs. the Braves on Tuesday, Tyler Mahle worked into the seventh for the second time in his young career. Mahle gave up one run, four hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven.

"I would like to get through seven. But I can't be mad about that," said Mahle, who improved to 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA. "We got our first series win. That's huge. I'm not too worried about going through seven. As long as I can give us a chance to win."

Cincinnati chipped away with key hits throughout the early going and scored at least one run in each of the first four innings. Against Twins starter Jose Berrios in the top of the first, Eugenio Suarez drove in the game's first run with a two-out double to left field that scored Jose Peraza. Another two-out RBI double in the second inning -- by Jesse Winker to right field -- made it a 2-0 game.

Video: CIN@MIN: Suarez plates Peraza with two-bagger to left

 Even without getting hits, the Reds were scoring just by putting the ball into play and avoiding potential double plays. With the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning against Berrios, Schebler was able to beat out a double play with Joey Votto scoring on the ground ball to first base. Adam Duvall also kept Minnesota from turning a double play on a grounder to third base, as he was safe at first base while Scooter Gennett scored. Two other times -- in the first and fourth innings, Gennett avoided double plays that kept an inning going.

"In today's game, the strikeout is not frowned upon as much as it used to be," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "By putting it in play there and beating out those balls that were potential double plays, we got a couple of runs out of that and extended rallies."

Video: CIN@MIN: Duvall pads lead with RBI fielder's choice

Cincinnati added three runs in the fourth against the Twins' bullpen to make it 7-0. Peraza, who already extended his season-high hitting streak to seven games, picked up another single to left field that scored Alex Blandino. Suarez and Schebler also notched RBI hits. The first long ball came in the seventh when Duvall went deep to left field against Tyler Duffey, giving every Reds player in the lineup at least one hit.

Video: CIN@MIN: Duvall hammers a solo dinger to left

Until the sixth, Mahle gave up only two hits -- both to Eduardo Escobar, while the rest of Minnesota's lineup was 0-for-14. But the rookie has endured trouble the third time through the order in past starts, and that's when he gave up his lone run on Sunday. Following Jason Castro's leadoff double, Joe Mauer drove him in with a one-out RBI single into center field. Mahle was able to get two fly outs to avoid further trouble, however.

Video: CIN@MIN: Mauer plates Castro with knock to center

In innings 1-4 during his six starts, Mahle has a 1.50 ERA and an 11.57 ERA from the fifth inning on.

"Get some starts under your belt and kind of get on a roll," Mahle said. "That's what everybody hopes would happen to start their season. I was able to put two in a row together."

The Twins have dropped nine of their last 10 games.

"Every win means a lot," Riggleman said. "We're just trying to put together any and all that we can. We've been having a hard time, Minnesota has been having a hard time, but both clubs are better than what their records say. We're very proud to come in here against a tough ball club on the road and win a couple."

Some good things are happening with the Reds lineup that should help them build a little more confidence.

• Peraza is batting .337 over his last 24 games, following an 0-for-12 start to the season.

• Since he came off of the disabled list on April 20, Schebler is batting .294 (10-for-34) and is batting .304/.360/.543 overall.

• Winker didn't have a good series while going 3-for-15, but he's reached base in 16 consecutive games -- which is pivotal for him as he continues to often bat in the leadoff spot.

• Votto -- who saw his streak of four straight games with a home run end on Saturday -- has reached safely in 14 straight games and is batting .345 (10-for-29) in his last eight games.

The Reds, who were at the bottom of the National League in many team offensive categories before the past week, are creeping upwards. Their .243 team average is fifth-best in the NL, and they're tied for 11th in runs scored. There's still work to do, though, as they are 14th in homers with 22 (with only the Marlins having fewer). In weighted runs created (wRC+), they came in 23rd in the Majors at 87 -- with 100 being the league average.

"I think everybody knew the offense was going to pick up," Schebler said. "Just off to a slow start, which is really not like this offense. We seem to find ways to score runs with the home run. Some teams don't do that. We're a team that doesn't have to hit home runs to score runs, which is good."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Blandino scores from first base: When Winker lined his double into right field, the ball went head toward the wall, which allowed Blandino to chug around from first base, before he was waved around by third base coach Billy Hatcher. Blandino was able to score with a headfirst slide across the plate ahead of the throw home.

Video: CIN@MIN: Winker plates Blandino with double to right

SOUND SMART
The Reds' series win at Target Field was their first Interleague road series win of at least three games since a three-game series sweep at Houston in Sept. 16-18, 2013. Until this weekend, they were 0-9 in Interleague road series of at least three games and had a 4-23 record during games of those series.

HE SAID IT
"With these guys, it's huge to get some zeros early because you know they're going to score some runs. It puts pressure on the other team once they're down. Getting zeros those first few innings is really big because this team is going to score a lot of runs." -- Mahle, on pitching with an early lead

UP NEXT
After the quick road trip to Minnesota, the Reds return home for a 10-day, nine-game homestand that begins at 7:10 p.m. ET Monday vs. the Brewers. Votto has reached safely in his last 14 games, a season-high streak he will try to extend against Milwaukee's Jhoulys Chacin. Brandon Finnegan will be making his fourth start of the season for Cincinnati. In his last outing on Wednesday vs. the Braves, Finnegan gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings with seven hits, one walk and four strikeouts.

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, Tyler Mahle