McCoy: Mahle, Votto lead Reds past Phillies

The general consensus was that the Cincinnati Reds were in over their heads Friday night in Philadelphia because they were facing Phillies 10-game winner and Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler.

The general consensus should have been that the Phillies were in over their heads because they were facing Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle.

It was no contest. Wheeler was gone after six innings and Mahle breezed like a cool summer zephyr, pitching the Reds to a 6-1 victory.

Mahle, mesmerizing and befuddling the Phillies with a splitter that dived like a nuclear submarine, threw seven innings of three-hit shutout in a near perfect performance. None of the three hits was hit solidly during his 108-pitch night.

Earlier this season Mahle beat Max Scherzer, then of the Washington Nationals. Afterward, Scherzer said, “Mahle outpitched me.” And Wheeler can say the same thing.

Mahle, though, doesn’t seem to care what the name on the back of the opposing team’s pitcher reads.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s out there,” he said. “All the pressure is on our offense because they have to hit, put up runs to win. The pressure is not on me. I just have to go out and make pitches and let (my defense) make plays, because they are going to. To me, it’s cool to have guys like that out there, it’s a cool matchup, but that’s the least of my worries.”

He didn’t have to worry about the offense. Mahle’s offensive support came from where it nearly always comes from these days.

Joey Votto. Three home runs — Votto, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez.

After Wheeler retired nine of the first 10 Reds, he gave up an infield hit to Tyler Naquin, hit Nick Castellanos with a pitch and Votto cleared the center field wall for a three-run home run.

Yes, the Reds hit three home runs, but Votto said the biggest play of the game was Naquin’s hustle infield hit that came before Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Votto homered. Naquin grounded to first and pitcher Wheeler was late covering first and Naquin beat it.

“That was awesome, that was momentum-changing, that was game-changing,” said Votto. “That was exactly what we needed at that time. In my opinion, on the offensive side, that was a very important moment in the game. I fed off that. I loved it.”

Votto might request that Castellanos get hit with a pitch every time up. Castellanos got hit by pitches twice Wednesday in Atlanta and Votto followed with a home run.

And it happened again Friday, resulting in Votto’s 26th home run. Castellanos got revenge in the sixth. He took Wheeler over the left field wall, his 20th home run, and a 4-0 lead. Castellanos joins Votto, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez with 20 or more home runs.

Suarez added to his total, 23 and counting, with a two-run rip in the ninth. Suarez played shortstop as Kyle Farmer was given a night off. And Winker was a late scratch with back tightness.

The night, though, belonged to Mahle as he joined teammate Wade Miley as a 10-game winner.

“I’ve seen him better from day one in this league,” said Votto. “He is realizing his potential and I’m proud of him. It couldn’t come at a better time with this group. We need as much help possible.

“Tyler has been excellent all year and tonight was another example of that,” Votto added. “We needed this win tonight and he took care of us.”

Said manager David Bell, “Mahle has had a lot of good ones this season, but I do think it would be tough to think of any better than that. That was outstanding. His secondary pitches were extremely effective, and he mixed them in well. Just a great game.”

The Reds have used the home run to their best advantage. Seventeen of their 18 runs in the last two games have come on eight home runs — 11 of 12 Thursday in Atlanta and all six Wednesday.

The Reds have won two in a row after beginning the trip with three loses, one in Cleveland and two in Atlanta.

“A game like this, where you don’t expect to win (against Wheeler) with such a wide margin because he is such a good pitcher,” said Votto. “We had a really good performance by Tyler Mahle. We had the quick loss in Cleveland and lost the series in Atlaneta, so we had to come back and play well.”

Michael Lorenzen preserved the shutout in the eighth, but the Phillies scored a run in the ninth off Heath Hembree on a walk to Jean Segura and a double by Didi Gregorius.

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