CINCINNATI -- Three batters into Tyler Mahle’s start vs. the Dodgers on Tuesday, he realized that the game plan that has served him so well lately needed to be revised quickly. That’s when Will Smith hit a two-out home run.
“I felt like they were kind of looking for, they kind of knew what my game plan usually is,” Mahle said. “So then we had to work around that. [I need to] learn how to switch game plans faster. We worked with what we had.”
Mahle’s string of superb starts came to an end during an 8-2 loss at Great American Ball Park as Cincinnati’s losing streak reached five games. Despite tying a career high with 12 hits allowed, he pitched six innings and allowed four earned runs with one walk and four strikeouts.
That didn’t mean Mahle was ineffective, however. Five of the hits were grounders that got through the infield, including some that should have been stopped. And he limited damage throughout.
“I just had to grind,” Mahle said. “It could have easily been one of those outings where you come out in the fourth or whatever.”
Mahle carried a 1.30 ERA over his previous four starts -- each of which was foiled by a blown save by the bullpen -- into the game. Especially against Los Angeles’ high-octane lineup, it was going to be hard to top his most recent performance of nine scoreless innings with a career-high-tying 12 strikeouts at Arizona one week ago.
With two outs in the first inning, Mahle’s 0-1 fastball to Smith was slugged to left field for a solo homer. But the Reds picked up their pitcher when Jonathan India did something no first batter of a game has done to Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin this season -- he got a hit. India smoked a 3-1 pitch to left field for a leadoff homer, and Albert Almora Jr.’s two-out solo homer to left-center field in the second inning gave the Reds a 2-1 lead.
Trouble really came calling on Mahle in the third. Gavin Lux led off with a grounder to the right side that got by India at second. Trea Turner followed with a sharp ground ball through the left side that shortstop Kyle Farmer couldn’t get. That set up a two-run double to right field by Freddie Freeman, who finished with five RBIs in the game. Freeman was thrown out at third base trying for a triple.
Justin Turner added a leadoff double and scored in the fourth inning, but Mahle stranded eight runners and kept the Dodgers from piling on.
“We’re used to seeing Tyler do really special things on the mound and have great nights. In some ways, starts like the one he had tonight are even more impressive to me,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Against that lineup, keeping us in the game. He allowed some hits on a couple well-placed -- taking nothing away from the Dodgers -- ground balls. It could’ve been different. … Overall, Tyler just gave everything he had, all the way to the last hitter to give us a shot.”
Mahle’s fastball, which was highly effective at getting swings and misses last week, was a tick off in velocity and effectiveness vs. the Dodgers. Of the 49 four-seam fastballs he threw, there were 20 swings and only one miss.
“Maybe it was the heat. It was pretty hot out there. But just never really getting into a groove, so maybe that had something to do with it,” said Mahle, who threw his first pitch in 94-degree temperatures.
In the sixth, Mahle surrendered a two-out single to Trea Turner and walked Freeman. This time against Smith -- on his 111th pitch -- he got an inning-ending flyout to right field.
“To get through that last inning, I think it took everything,” Bell said. “That’s really all you need to know about Tyler.”