WASHINGTON -- Interim manager Jim Riggleman knows the Reds can't use a six-man rotation much longer since it removes an arm from his bullpen.Riggleman is deciding which starter to remove, and after Tyler Mahle's poor performance during the Reds' 10-4 loss to the Nationals on Thursday night at Nationals Park,
WASHINGTON -- Interim manager Jim Riggleman knows the Reds can't use a six-man rotation much longer since it removes an arm from his bullpen.
Riggleman is deciding which starter to remove, and after Tyler Mahle's poor performance during the Reds' 10-4 loss to the Nationals on Thursday night at Nationals Park, Riggleman said Mahle may be a candidate when he discusses a move with general manager Nick Krall and executive advisor Walt Jocketty.
The Reds pulled Mahle after just 1 2/3 innings, as the right-hander allowed six runs and three walks on 49 pitches, putting Cincinnati in a hole it couldn't escape for its third consecutive loss. Mahle hasn't pitched past the third inning in three of his past four starts, a stretch in which he's allowed 20 earned runs over 10 2/3 innings.
"He's really kind of toying with his delivery and where he's standing on the rubber," Riggleman said. "He's thinking about a lot of things. Just a couple of his quality pitches have gotten away from him. He's going out there with just a fastball and not really locating that. There's reason for concern."
The Reds thought they might not have to make a rotation decision since Matt Harvey was a likely trade piece. Harvey is still in Cincinnati past the non-waiver Trade Deadline, though, and Riggleman believes the Reds would benefit from having an eighth bullpen arm.
In a six-run second inning, Mahle issued four hits, two walks, a hit by pitch and an intentional walk as the Nationals batted around before Keury Mella replaced him. Mahle was 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in six June starts, but the 23-year-old has struggled since. The Reds haven't won with Mahle on the mound since July 6.
Mahle shifted from the third-base side of the mound to the first-base side during his past two outings, which Mahle said he'll stop doing.
"I don't think that was smart of us," Mahle said. "That's not the reason I'm pitching bad, but I had two bad outings."
Mella, MLB Pipeline's 12th-ranked Reds prospect, allowed one run over 4 1/3 innings in his season debut, a promising sign for the Reds' future and pitching depth the remainder of this year. It was the longest appearance for a Cincinnati reliever this season.
Despite Mella's performance, Cincinnati's offense didn't have much of a chance to come back. Eugenio Suarez's two-run home run off Max Scherzer in the fourth inning -- his sixth homer in his previous nine hits -- brought Cincinnati within five runs. Jose Peraza added a two-run double in the ninth, but those runs had little meaning after Raisel Iglesias permitted two homers in the previous inning.
"To have [Scherzer] throw 110 pitches in six innings is an indication that we were getting some good at-bats, but he's just really tough," Riggleman said. "The Cy Youngs are obviously warranted. He's about as tough as it gets."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Mahle intentionally walked Daniel Murphy to load the bases with one out in the second inning and face the bottom of the Nationals order. However, Matt Wieters then hit a sacrifice fly to score Bryce Harper before Scherzer singled in Juan Soto as the inning continued.
"Falling behind guys and making bad pitches," Mahle said when asked about his second-inning issues.
Scooter Gennett's strikeout against Scherzer in the fifth inning was the first time Scherzer had retired Gennett over six at-bats this season.
Anthony DeSclafani will take the mound when the Reds face the Nationals in the second game of a four-game set at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday at Nationals Park. DeSclafani allowed three runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies on July 27, finishing with seven strikeouts. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in six career appearances against Washington. Giovany Gonzalez gets the start for the Nats.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.