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Mahle sparkles early in 11-K no-hit bid

Righty carries no-no into the seventh before allowing 3 runs in frame
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Reds rookie Tyler Mahle tossed a perfect game in Double-A last season and a no-hitter in Class A Advanced two seasons ago. For the first six innings of Cincinnati's 9-7, 12-inning win over the Braves on Tuesday, Mahle flirted with throwing his first no-hitter in the Majors.

"It's in the back of your head, always," Mahle said.

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CINCINNATI -- Reds rookie Tyler Mahle tossed a perfect game in Double-A last season and a no-hitter in Class A Advanced two seasons ago. For the first six innings of Cincinnati's 9-7, 12-inning win over the Braves on Tuesday, Mahle flirted with throwing his first no-hitter in the Majors.

"It's in the back of your head, always," Mahle said.

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In the end, Mahle's dominance for six innings would become a no-decision footnote during the Reds' win. The 23-year-old, who is ranked as the organization's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, already had 11 strikeouts and kept Atlanta hitless into the seventh when Freddie Freeman led off with a homer deep into the right-field seats.

Video: ATL@CIN: Freeman homers to break up Mahle's no-hitter

But before the momentum-changing seventh, there was a feeling at Great American Ball Park that Mahle could have a special night, as he retired 18 of his first 20 batters with just two walks serving as the blemishes at the time.

"We were all rooting for it," said Reds reliever Jared Hughes, who pitched a scoreless 2 1/3 innings for the victory. "I was trying to sit in my same spot and everything. We were trying to obviously go for that."

Mahle threw 97 pitches in the game and 68 pitches -- or 70 percent -- of them were four-seam fastballs according to Statcast™. Not only did he command the pitch for 29 strikes, including 13 swings-and-misses, he was effectively changing speeds. The four-seamer ranged from 89-97 mph and averaged 93 mph.

Video: ATL@CIN: Mahle strikes out Albies and the side

The best secondary pitch Mahle offered was his slider, which he used 20 times while averaging 84 mph.

"My fastball was working really well. My slider was better than it has been," Mahle said. "I felt great and was able to execute pitches for six innings."

Video: Tyler Mahle on his no-hit bid, dominant outing

With the no-hit and shutout bids wiped out, Nick Markakis followed with a double to the left-field gap and Kurt Suzuki made it a two-run game with his two-run homer to left field that finished Mahle's evening. Amir Garrett took over and kept the Braves from adding on in the seventh.

"I didn't have any thoughts about getting anybody up [in the bullpen] when he went out there for the [seventh] inning," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "His pitch count and everything was in good shape. Once the home run got hit and Markakis hit the next pitch, we were a little shell-shocked by it. But I don't think I would want to do anything before that anyway. Then Suzuki got one, a hanging slider, maybe we could have gotten him out of there a little quicker."

Video: ATL@CIN: Suzuki rips a two-run shot to left

It was still a nice line and quality start for Mahle in the ninth Major League start of his young career. Besides 11 strikeouts, he finished with three earned runs, three hits and two walks over his six-plus innings.

On April 22, 2017, Mahle threw his perfect game for Double-A Pensacola against Jackson. On June 13 of last year, for Class A Advanced Daytona against Jupiter, he faced the minimum number of batters for his first professional no-hitter.

"If I was able to execute pitches in the seventh, that [rally] probably doesn't happen," Mahle said. "But my pitch count was higher than the two times I have done it. I probably wouldn't have been able to go nine."

Now 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA in his five starts this season, Mahle saw two of his dominant outings erode the third time through the order. Although he was against the heart of Atlanta's order in their third chance at seeing him again, it came amidst a sharper overall performance.

"I think he did really well, said second baseman Scooter Gennett, who hit two homers, including the walk-off winner in the 12th. "If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be a good one." 

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