By HAL McCOY
Tyler Mahle performed a nifty piece of one-upmanship Wednesday night in Kaufmann Stadium.
After watching teammate Sal Romano hold the moribund Kansas City Royals to one run over eight innings Tuesday night, Mahle followed it with no runs over 6 2/3 innings as the Cincinnati Reds completed a two-game sweep, 7-0.
It wasn’t as easy as the score suggests. It was 0-0 after six innings before the Reds scored two unearned runs in the seventh, a run in the eighth and four in the ninth.
Mahle gave up only three hits and walked two. And he made extensive use of the expansive outfield in Kauffman, coaxing 10 fly balls from the Royals. And double plays in the first two innings helped.
Mahle had to be good because Kansas City starter Jacob Hammel was on his best behavior, the same way Royals starter Ian Kennedy was Tuesday night. Kennedy pitched eight scoreless innings but his bullpen blew it and the Reds won in 10 innings, 5-1.
Hammel pitched six scoreless innings, giving up two hits when he entered the seventh inning of a 0-0 tie.
Then the Royals displayed why they are buried in last place in the American League Central with a worse record than the Reds.
They committed two errors in the seventh that led to two runs. Jose Peraza led the inning with a double and moved to third on a ground ball.
With the infield pulled in to cut off the run, Scooter Gennett grounded to short and Peraza was not running from third. But instead of getting in front of the ball shortstop Alicedes Escobar lazily tried to backhand it. The ball bounced off his glove into left field, an error that permitted Peraza to score the game’s first run.
From there it got real ugly.
Eugenio Suarez singled, putting runners of third and first with one out. Jesse Winker grounded to first and Hunter Dozier stepped on the bag for the second out. He had time to throw to second for an inning-ending double play. But his throw to second hit Suarez in the back — another error as Gennett scored to make it 2-0.
The Reds scored a conventional run in the eighth on a single by Billy Hamilton, a double by Scott Schebler and a single by Jose Peraza.
Another Kansas City error opened the double doors for the Reds in the ninth, four runs on a 414-foot grand slam by Adam Duvall.
Gennett opened the inning with a single and second baseman Ramon Torres booted Suarez’s ground ball, putting runners on second and first.
Jesse Winker put down a sacrifice bunt and pitcher Tim Hill inexplicably tried to get the runner on third when he had no chance and everybody was safe, loading the bases.
Distraught and disturbed manager Ned Yost took the ball away from Hill at this point and gave it to Jason Adam to face Duvall with the bases loaded.
Duvall clean them off with his grand slam to make it 7-0.
Manager Jim Riggleman clearly didn’t want this one to get away. Mahle had only 88 pitches when he gave up a one-out single to Jorge Soler, only the third hit off Mahle.
But Riggleman removed Mahle and brought in left hander Amir Garrett to face left hander Alex Gordeon. Garrett retired Gordon on a fly ball to left field. Riggleman then removed Garrett and brought in right hander Jared Hughes to face right hander Hunter Dozier. Hughes retired him on a ground ball to end the inning.
Hughes came back out for the eighth and put two on with two outs, including a two-out 3-and-2 walk to Whit Merrifield. Riggleman trudged to the mound again and removed Hughes. He brought in left hander Wandy Peralta to face the Royals’ best hitter, lefty Mike Moustakas. It took Peralta one pitch to retire Moustakas, the potential tying run. Moustakas lined hard to center field.
The Reds then took apart the Royals bullpen in the eighth and ninth to seal it.
After a day off Thursday, the Reds open a three-game series Friday night in Pittsburgh, a chance to cut the eight-game gap between them and the fourth-place Pirates.