Dragons’ Mahle in command

“It’s a combination of a lot of things like where to locate my fastball and the breaking ball is working pretty well,” Mahle said after beating the visiting Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers) 3-1 at Fifth Third Field on Monday night. “Things are just falling into place.”

That’s tactfully saying you can’t touch this, which is just what Mahle did again.

The 6-foot-3 right-hander from Westminster, Calif., lasted seven innings, allowed three hits, walked just one and posted a career-high nine strikeouts.

Better than those impressive stats, he was on cruise-control command. That’s just the kind of demeanor – and results – that will get your ticketed punched out of low Class-A minor-league baseball.

“This is the first two games I’ve put together that were solid,” said Mahle (3-3), who spurned UC Santa Barbara to sign with the Reds out of high school in 2013. “I hope to carry that on. We’ve got five solid starters. We want to go deep into the game and keep us in the game as long as you can and put the ball in our bullpen’s hands.”

On Monday that meant Scott Brattvet for a scoreless eighth and Brian Hunter in the ninth.

Already leading 1-0, Brian O’Grady’s two-run double in the fifth upped the advantage to 3-0. Leadoff hitter Ronald Bueno and O’Grady, a DH who batted third, each had two hits.

Outfielder Alex Santana had three of the Loons’ five hits. Hunter was touched for a couple hits and gave up a run in the ninth but struck out two and ended the game with a punch-out for his fifth save.

Mahle went eight innings his previous outing, a no-decision at Great Lakes.

“We’re seeing his development and progress,” Dragons manager Jose Nieves said. “We’re looking for details. How did they improve outing after outing? Confidence, poise on the mound and he’s willing to throw the ball in the strike zone. When nights like that happen, we appreciate the effort. It was outstanding. You can’t ask more from a pitcher than to give you seven innings.”

Dragons tales: Former Reds teammates Barry Larkin and Eric Davis spent the day with the Dragons. Both have long official titles, but essentially their job is to instruct in all the game’s nuances. They will spend time at all the Reds’ minor-league programs this season.

• Gonzalez pushed his hitting streak to 13 games. That’s the longest for the club this season and the longest for a Dragon since 2012 when Ryan Wright mounted a 17-game hit streak. The Dragons’ club record is 20.

Right behind Gonzalez is O’Grady with a 12-game hit steak.

• There are a lot of minor-league plays you won’t see at the major-league level and here’s another: 2 hours, 14 minutes. That’s how long – or brief – it took to play Monday’s 8.5-inning game.

A lack of TV commercials – the game wasn’t televised – plays into that. As does good pitching and a lack of offense. No one was complaining.

• Longtime general manager Kevin Towers also was a Dragons guest on Monday. Among his stops as GM was with the Padres for the 1998 World Series and the Diamondbacks. He’s now a special assistant to Reds GM Walt Jocketty.

• The contest drew an announced crowd of 8,675, which pushes the stadium’s sold-out streak to 1,066.

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