Once again the Cincinnati Reds bullpen turned into a pigpen.
The bullpen turned Tyler Mahle’s well-manicured lawn into a cesspool Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park, a 4-2 bullpen horror-show loss to the hit-starved Cleveland Indians..
Mahle, a stand-in in the Reds rotation, held the Indians to no runs and one hit over six innings. He left after throwing 98 pitches, his pitch-count swollen by six 3-and-2 counts.
But he had retired 10 straight hitters with nary a sniff of a problem.
Mahle, inserted into the rotation when Wade Miley lapsed onto the injured list, turned over a 2-0 lead in the seventh to the bullpen. The runs came on Nick Castellanos’ sixth home run and Eugenio Suarez’s home run.
Asked if he could have returned to the mound for the seventh, Mahle said, “I think I can go deeper in every game. You don’t like to come out after six and say, ‘Oh, I’m done.’ Every pitcher is like that, they want to go until they can’t any more.
“But ... 97 pitches, that’s more than I’ve thrown in a long time, so no doubt it was the right call,” he said.
Then came the bullpen.
Pedro Strop and Lucas Sims gave up two in the seventh to tie it and the Tribe didn’t hit a ball out of the infield.
Franmil Reyes reached on shortstop Freddy Galvis’ error. Strop then walked Bradley Zimmer and with two outs he walked Oscar Mercado, two guys at the bottom of the order, to fill the bases.
Cesar Hernandez chopped a squibber up the first base line for an infield hit that scored the first run.
Lucas Sims replaced Strop and walked Jose Ramirez on a full count to force in the tying run.
Nate Smith walked Carlos Santana to open the eighth and Reyes barely cleared the center field wall for the two-run heart-breaker, Cleveland’s third and final hit. Reyes reversed a Smith fastball when he had showed in the first two games of the season that he couldn’t hit a breaking pitch if they told him it was coming.
Reds manager David Bell continues to express outward confidence in the beleaguered bullpen.
“We continue to believe in them and have confidence,” he said. “We need these guys to be good, and they are. We are going to stay with them. They want to pitch better and we believe that is going to happen.”
Cleveland came into the game in a mighty offensive struggle, scoring only 28 runs in its first 11 games.
But the Tribe left the premises with its 4-2 victory because of walks and the 10th home run given up by the Reds bullpen in the first 11 games.
Amir Garrett, the Reds’ best relief pitcher so far this season, didn’t set foot on the mound until after the Reyes home run. And he flawlessly retired the two hitters he faced.
Both Reds’ solo home runs came off Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, who did not give up a run in his first two starts of the season.
Castellanos homered in the first and Suarez homered in the fourth, then Bieber slapped a Yale lock on things.
He retired 12 of 14 after the Suarez home run and the Reds finally got rid of him when Joey Votto singled with two outs in the eighth. James Karinchak came on to catch Castellanos looking at 2-and-2 for a called strike three.
Struggling Tribe closer Brad Hand finished off the Reds 1-2-3 in the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Matt Davidson to end it.
Beiber, now 3-and-0, pitched 7 2/3 innings and gave up two runs and five hits, while walking two and striking out three. In his three starts he has struck out 35 and walked three.
The Indians ended a four-game losing streak while the Reds saw their three-game winning streak disappear and they fell back below .500 at 5-and-6.
The Tribe has no fear of playing in Great American Ball Park. They have beaten the Reds 11 of the last 14 in GABP and seven of the last eight.