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For 2nd straight start, wheels come off for Mahle

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- During the Reds' recent winning surge, they haven't been on the wrong end of lopsided losses very often. A big reason for Cincinnati's revival from the rotation side has been rookie pitcher Tyler Mahle.

Following Friday's 12-1 defeat to the Pirates at Great American Ball Park in a lackluster opening to the second half -- which was just Cincinnati's third loss of more than four runs in the past month -- Mahle has now been on the hook for the last two rough games for the team. His six earned runs allowed were a season-high and they happened over 5 2/3 innings, when Mahle allowed eight hits (including two homers) and three walks against three strikeouts.

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CINCINNATI -- During the Reds' recent winning surge, they haven't been on the wrong end of lopsided losses very often. A big reason for Cincinnati's revival from the rotation side has been rookie pitcher Tyler Mahle.

Following Friday's 12-1 defeat to the Pirates at Great American Ball Park in a lackluster opening to the second half -- which was just Cincinnati's third loss of more than four runs in the past month -- Mahle has now been on the hook for the last two rough games for the team. His six earned runs allowed were a season-high and they happened over 5 2/3 innings, when Mahle allowed eight hits (including two homers) and three walks against three strikeouts.

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Mahle gave up seven runs (five earned) over 2 1/3 innings in a 19-4 loss to the Indians on July 11. That came after a seven-start stretch where he had a 2.04 ERA while going 4-0.

"Some bad luck involved, and bad pitching. It's nothing else to really say," Mahle said.

Pittsburgh already led, 2-0, when it opened the top of the sixth inning with a Colin Moran single and a Josh Bell walk. Pitching coach Danny Darwin paid a mound visit but on the very first pitch after the chat, Mahle left a slider up to Sean Rodriguez and gave up a three-run homer. With two outs and a full count, Corey Dickerson slugged another slider for a solo homer to make it a 6-0 game and end Mahle's night.

"A slider down the middle to Rodriguez. It was another slider down the middle, a full count. I had to throw a strike. Both sliders, both home runs that hurt real bad," Mahle said.

According to Statcast™, 22 of Mahle's 111 pitches in the game were sliders. It garnered three swings-and-misses, two called strikes and four foul balls. Rodriguez didn't hit a cheap homer, with an exit velocity of 103.7 mph and it traveled 407 feet.

If bad pitching does derail a Mahle performance, odds are that it could happen in the sixth inning. Including Friday, he has a 9.00 ERA in the sixth -- by far his worse in any inning of a game -- with four home runs.

"We've talked about it earlier in the year," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We were getting past the point of that sixth inning. That sixth inning bit one of our starters again. He had given up a couple of runs before that but not many hard-hit balls. He was kind of cruising along. In the sixth, he kind of lost control a little bit.

"It's kind of a hurdle we've got to get over there."

Video: PIT@CIN: Riggleman on Blandino, loss to Pirates

The long night was made longer before Mahle could even throw a pitch. Rain forced a two-hour, 55-minute delay of the game's start.

"Once it got closer to the game time was supposed to be, I didn't go through my whole routine but I just started to warm up again and went out and played catch and went into the bullpen and did all of that stuff," Mahle said.

It was scoreless in the top of the fourth when Mahle threw a wild pitch to Bell that moved Moran into scoring position. After Bell walked, Rodriguez's RBI single to left field plated the game's first run. A squeeze bunt by Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon scored Bell for a two-run deficit.

A Jesse Winker RBI double in the sixth ended Taillon's night, but Pittsburgh added a run in the seventh inning when Gregory Polanco hit a leadoff triple against reliever Austin Brice and scored on an Elias Diaz single. In the eighth inning against Jackson Stephens, Starling Marte slugged a grand slam to left field to turn the game into a blowout.

Video: PIT@CIN: Winker lifts an RBI double in the 6th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The game was out of hand when an unfortunate incident happened in the top of the ninth. As backup infielder Alex Blandino turned a double play at second base, Max Moroff rolled into his right knee in an unsuccessful attempt to break up a double play. Blandino immediately grabbed his knee and would have to be helped off the field. With the Reds out of middle infielders on their bench, backup catcher Curt Casali replaced Blandino at second base -- his first time at that position, coming immediately after he made his first career appearance as the first baseman to open the ninth.

• Blandino injured on DP breakup attempt

"Hopefully, it's something that will not be too devastating for him. But it's certainly very unfortunate," Riggleman said of Blandino's injury.

Video: PIT@CIN: Blandino exits game with an injury

SOUND SMART
Winker had two hits on Friday to extend his career-high hitting streak to 11 games. It's tied for the longest hit streak among National League rookies with the Padres' Christian Villanueva, who did it April 13-28.

UP NEXT
Coming off his poorest outing of the season to conclude the first half, Anthony DeSclafani will make the start on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park, opposite Pirates pitcher Nick Kingham. DeSclafani gave up a season-high six earned runs over 3 1/3 innings during Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals. He is 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in seven career starts vs. Pittsburgh.

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, Jesse Winker