By HAL McCOY
Tyler Mahle was good during spring training and he was excellent in his first start this season, but on Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates welcomed him to the School of Hard Knocks.
The Pirates ripped into Mahle for five straight one-out hits in the fifth inning, including two home runs during a four-run inning.
It was more than enough for Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon. He held the Reds to one hit and that was a ground ball single up the middle by opposing pitcher Mahle in the third inning.
The Reds lost, 5-0, but there was a much bigger loss. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez suffered a fractured right thumb when he was hit by a pitch leading off the fourth inning.
Suarez was one of the few Reds hitters performing up to expectations. On Saturday night, he had three hits and drove in five of the team’s seven runs with a two-run single and a three-run game-winning home run.
And the speculation begins. Will the Reds call up infielder Nick Senzel, their No. 1 draft pick two years ago, from Triple-A Louisville? Or will they call up Alex Blandino?
“We do have some options, Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin, that’s why we got them,” Price told the media after the game. “And we’ll certainly make a move to fill out the 25-man roster.”
Price already had been playing one-man short. Scott Schebler was hit by a pitch last Sunday and hasn’t played, but the Reds did not place him on the disabled list.
Just one day after they scored seven runs in a 7-4 victory Saturday, the Reds had only four base runners against Taillon. After Mahle’s hit, Suarez reached base in the fourth when he was hit with a 94 miles an hour fastball, a two-out walk to Scooter Gennett in the seventh, Taillon’s first walk in his two starts this season and a two-out walk to Cliff Pennington in the ninth — and ball four was a border-line pitch.
And Taillon provided the Pirates with their first run in second inning. Mahle retired the first two, but gave up a double to Jordy Mercer and Taillon singled to center for a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the fateful fifth. Mahle retired Taillon on a ground ball to the mound, then his world collapsed.
Josh Harrison singled and Gregory Polanco crushed a two-run home run high into the right center bleachers, giving him 13 RBI this season in the Pirates first nine games (7-2). Starling Marte doubled and Josh Bell singled to make it 4-0. With two outs, Corey Dickerson homered on Mahle’s 100th and final pitch of the game.
Mahle threw 13 pitches to Pittsburgh’s first hitter of the game, Josh Harrison, before walking him. He then gave up a single to Polanco, but wriggled his way out of the first inning with no runs. But his pitch count was mounting fast.
Mahle gave up five runs, nine hits, walked one and struck out two in his 4 2/3 innings.
He was replaced by Amir Garrett and he retired seven straight Pirates.
And that brings up a question. Garrett outpitched Cody Reed last season by a mile-and-a-half and outpitched him during spring training by two miles.
But when the Reds open a three-game series in Philadelphia Monday night it will be Reed starting while Garrett sits in the bullpen.
While Mahle needed 100 pitches to cover 4 2/3 innings, the 25-year-old Taillon needed only 110 to pitch his first major league complete game.
The Reds lost three of four to the Pirates and head for Philadelphia with only two wins in their first eight games.
His one-hitter was saved in the ninth when second baseman Josh Harrison made a fabulous stop up the middle on a ball hit by Jesse Winker and a game-ending shoestring catch by left fielder Corey Dickerson on Joey Votto.