Mahle's breakout 2021 has unsatisfying end

Bell: Reds giving 'everything they have' to close out year

October 3rd, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Mahle usually feels right at home while pitching on the road. But the Reds’ starting pitcher found himself undone by one big inning Saturday night vs. the Pirates at PNC Park.

Mahle blew a big lead in the fifth inning and the bullpen couldn’t salvage the night during an 8-6 Reds loss -- their fourth in a row. He gave up six runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings.

“Four great innings, just like we’ve seen all year,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Then he ran into trouble in the fifth, but really all I have to say about it is one inning means nothing in the big picture of what he’s done this year. I want to make sure he knows that. He does. It was a great season in every way.”

Through the first four innings, Mahle had racked up five strikeouts -- including striking out the side in the bottom of the third. There were only two singles on his ledger as he escaped the fourth inning with a double play. Meanwhile, the Reds’ lineup was pounding away at the Pirates.

Already leading, 2-0, the Reds padded their lead when Eugenio Suárez slugged a two-run homer to center field in the fourth inning -- his 31st of the season. With two outs in the fifth, Nick Castellanos hit home run No. 34 of his season -- a solo drive to right-center field that made it 5-0.

Instead of taking advantage, Mahle’s evening unraveled in a hurry.

“Just made some not-so-good pitches and they handled it. That's really all there was to it. I just wasn't able to get anyone out,” Mahle said. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but it is what it is. Good thing that didn't define my whole year.”

The first five Pirates batters in a six-run bottom of the fifth notched hits -- including pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo’s two-run triple. Mahle was lifted following Bryan Reynolds’ one-out single. Lefty reliever Justin Wilson couldn’t stop Pittsburgh’s momentum and gave up Michael Chavis’ two-run double to left field that put the Pirates ahead, 6-5.

Mahle came in with a 1.85 road ERA that was second in the Majors among qualified pitchers. Conversely, his 5.63 home ERA is second worst.

Put it all together and Mahle had his best season since breaking into the big leagues in 2017. He finished 13-6 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while making all 33 of his scheduled starts. The right-hander posted career highs with 180 innings pitched and a team-leading 210 strikeouts.

“Those are the two things I was happy about -- making all my starts and throwing a lot of innings,” Mahle said. “There's still a lot of work to be done for myself, I think. I'm not content where I'm at right now. I'm still going to keep pushing.”

It was a 6-6 game in the bottom of the sixth inning when reliever Tony Santillan was one strike from a perfect frame. Santillan hit Yoshi Tsutsugo on the leg with a two-strike pitch before Reynolds drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI triple to right field. Pittsburgh scored an additional run in the seventh inning against Luis Cessa.

The Reds have been stuck at 82 wins and were eliminated from postseason contention Tuesday. While banged up and missing some regular players, they’re 0-4 on the road trip and can only try to end on a high note in Game 162 on Sunday.

“Of course we wanted to finish strong. We still have one more tomorrow,” Bell said. “The goal was to make the playoffs; that didn’t happen. The goal then became to finish strong. We’re going to continue to try to do that. We have a game tomorrow. But we’re at a point where I look at everything our team has done as far as the effort, the way they compete -- they’re giving everything they have. That’s all that matters to me. That’s all you can do.”