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DeSclafani's first 9 outs? All come by the K

Right-hander lasts 4 1/3 innings, undone by 5-run 3rd frame
@m_sheldon
June 23, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani went from dominating to dominated vs. the Brewers on Sunday. And, it happened really fast. DeSclafani tied a club record by striking out his first six batters of the game, but the Brewers made an adjustment and blistered his pitches for five runs in

MILWAUKEE -- Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani went from dominating to dominated vs. the Brewers on Sunday. And, it happened really fast.

DeSclafani tied a club record by striking out his first six batters of the game, but the Brewers made an adjustment and blistered his pitches for five runs in the third inning on their way to handing Cincinnati a 7-5 loss at Miller Park.

Box score

“There wasn’t a whole lot of signs that he lost the feel or completely lost the feel for the strike zone or anything like that,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It seemed like any time he missed over the plate, they were ready for it. That third inning happened quick.”

Over his 4 1/3 innings, DeSclafani established or tied season highs in strikeouts (nine), but also in earned runs allowed (six) and hits (eight) with one walk.

Although 4-4 with a 4.70 ERA in 15 starts across 74 2/3 innings, DeSclafani came into the day 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA over his last three starts. So there wasn’t much concern that Sunday was anything more than a rough outing.

“Not minimizing damage wasn’t good. Hopefully, I can rebound these next two starts before heading into the break,” DeSclafani said. “In a weird way, I felt like I’m making a right step with my delivery. It’s just kind of still making minor adjustments and trying to harness whatever I had.”

Routinely touching 95-96 mph with his four-seam fastball, DeSclafani could not be touched in his first two innings, with all six strikeouts coming on swings and misses. He got three of them on fastballs, or used his heater to set up strike three, such as he did to Mike Moustakas before he ended the first inning fanning at a curveball.

DeSclafani tied for a club record with teammate Robert Stephenson with six strikeouts to open a game. Stephenson did it vs. the Pirates on Aug. 25, 2017.

“I was just mixing up speeds,” DeSclafani said. “I felt like if I was missing, I was missing up or I was missing down or in and out. Not too much was middle. I was able to complement it with a curveball that seemed to be working. Just everything kind of snowballed in the third inning.”

The game turned when Travis Shaw clobbered DeSclafani’s first pitch of the third inning for a homer to right field. According to Statcast, the ball exited at 113 mph and carried 465 feet.

“I missed my spot. It was supposed to be down and away. It was pretty much right in his sweet zone, down and in,” DeSclafani said.

Just like that, DeSclafani lost his momentum and the Brewers stayed dialed in.

"Look, when a guy punches out the first six hitters, [the home run] changes everything,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It flips it pretty fast from, ‘Man, this is going to be a tough day,’ to, ‘There’s something there.’ We put together a great inning after that.”

With one out in the third, Ben Gamel zinged a single to center field and Yasmani Grandal hit a long single to the warning track in left field. Christian Yelich drove an RBI double to the wall in right-center field, and Moustakas also hit the wall with a two-run single to right field. He scored on Orlando Arcia’s two-out RBI single to center field to make it a 5-0 game.

DeSclafani came into the day with hitters averaging an 88.7 mph exit velocity against him. In the third inning, Milwaukee’s contact into play averaged 104.1 mph.

“I didn’t really get ... a miss-hit to help me get through that inning,” DeSclafani said. “Everything was hit pretty hard and hit to the wall or hit in the gap. It seemed like it was either getting punched off the wall or they were striking out.”

Amid all of the hard hits, the side was struck out again in the Brewers’ third inning. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, DeSclafani and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes are the only pitchers this season to record nine strikeouts through the first three innings of a game.

DeSclafani pitched into the fifth inning and left after giving up a one-out double to Ryan Braun.

Reliever Zach Duke entered, and Braun stole third base, before scoring on Eric Thames’ sacrifice fly. Arcia was next and hit a 3-1 pitch to right-center field for a solo homer to extend Cincinnati’s deficit to seven runs. Joey Votto’s three-run homer against Brandon Woodruff in the sixth inning was the only blemish on the pitcher who struck out a career-high 12 batters in his seven innings. Cincinnati scored two more runs off Jeremy Jeffress in the ninth and nearly pulled off the comeback when Jose Peraza, who represented the tying run, ended the game with a flyout to deep left field.

“If I don’t give up a five-spot [in the third], it could be a different story here at the end of the day,” DeSclafani lamented.

A four-game series that began with optimism for the Reds with back-to-back wins, including six in a row overall since last Sunday, ended with back-to-back losses for a split. Monday’s off-day will be welcomed for a bullpen that had to cover a lot of innings. DeSclafani was the third consecutive Reds starter that failed to complete five innings.

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.