by Steve Mancuso

Home run bats, Mahle and Antone power Reds to 7-1 win in series opener

Look at that. The Cincinnati Reds have won 6 in a row and are 26-26. It’s the first time they’ve been at least .500 since August 3 when they were 5-5. 

The Reds 7-1 win over the first-place Chicago White Sox couldn’t have gone much better. The bats produced 6 runs early and 25-year-old Tyler Mahle and 26-year-old rookie Tejay Antone shut down the South Siders powerful offense. Lo and behold, the Reds have scored 7 or more runs 3 times in the last 6 games. They hadn’t done it once in the previous 26 games. 

Sure, Chicago was a day removed from celebrating clinching their first postseason berth in a while. It won’t be a surprise to see a different White Sox team tomorrow. But if they plan to even up the series and prevent the surging Reds from getting over .500, the White Sox will have to deal with a motivated Trevor Bauer and a newly charged up offense. 

The Pitching

Tyler Mahle gave the Reds 5.2 strong innings tonight, leaving with the score 6-1. Mahle shut out the powerful White Sox lineup through the first five innings, with 8 strikeouts and allowing just two walks. His command abandoned him a bit in the 6th inning, giving up a leadoff double, walk and a hit batter to load the bases. He then recorded two ground ball outs. In total, Mahle threw 100 pitches. He recorded swings-and-misses or called strikes on 24 of the 58 fastballs.

On the day the Reds signed Wade Miley and everyone else was writing that the Reds had “filled their vacancy” in the rotation, I wondered if something had happened to Tyler Mahle. I wrote hereAnointing Miley the fifth starter seems odd considering a case can be made that Tyler Mahle pitched better than Miley last season. Miley as the #5 starter could easily weaken the Reds rotation instead of improving it.” It was right there in the stats if you looked beyond ERA: 

Tyler Mahle’s development and performance in 2020 has backed this up, punctuated by his huge performance tonight. 

With two outs and runners on second and third, manager David Bell went to Tejay Antone from the bullpen. After walking the first batter he faced, Antone struck out White Sox slugger Luis Robert on three sliders off the plate to snuff out the threat. Here is the pitch breakdown for the Antone-Robert at bat. 

Our David Kelley wrote this about Antone’s slider a couple weeks ago: “Antone’s most impressive pitch is his Slider that runs away from right-handed batters and jams lefties with a whiff rate of 56.5% and a 0.072 xBA.”

Antone pitched two shutout innings in the 7th and 8th. Sal Romano pitched a clean 9th inning but gave up three hard-hit balls. 

The Bats

Nick Castellanos put the Reds in the lead early when he turned around a Jonathan Stiever slider and knocked a 404-foot home run into the second deck of left field. It was the Reds right fielder’s 13th homer this year,  a solo shot, making the score 1-0.

Tucker Barnhart followed with a shot of his own down the right field line, making the score 2-0. It was Barnhart’s third home run in 27 plate appearances in September.

Joey Votto joined in the homer parade later in the 3rd inning, banging a long far one to center field, making the score 3-0. It was the longest of the three at 413 feet and Votto’s fourth homer in the last eight games. 

Finally, later in the 3rd after Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas had walked, Jesse Winker crushed a ball 447 feet into deeeeeep right center. It ended a streak of 32 consecutive plate appearances for Winker without a hit. It also ended Jonathan Stiever’s night with the score 6-0.

The Reds added on a run in the bottom of the seventh when a walk by Shogo Akiyama and long double by Votto made the score 7-1. It was Joey Votto’s first 3-hit night of 2020. 

Vital Stats

Most Valuable Player

  • Tyler Mahle .174 WPA (win probability added)
  • Joey Votto .109 WPA
  • Jesse Winker .096 WPA

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Jesse Winker 110.9 mph | home run
  • Nick Castellanos 106.4 mph home run
  • Joey Votto 105.6 mph | home run
  • Tucker Barnhart 104.2 | home run
  • Shogo Akiyama 103.3 | single

Highest Velocities by Pitcher

  • Tejay Antone 97.4 mph
  • Tyler Mahle 96.7 mph
  • Sal Romano 95.9 mph

xBA (expected batting average)

  • Reds .263
  • White Sox .185

What’s Next?

The Reds return back to GABP for another game with the White Sox. It’s a Fox national broadcast game. Game time is 7:07 pm ET. Trevor Bauer will pitch against Dallas Keuchel. 

Keuchel spent most of his career pitching for the Houston Astros, where he won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015. He pitched last year for Atlanta and made nine starts so far in 2020 for the White Sox. He’s on a 3-year, $55.5 million contract through 2022. The Reds faced the 32-year-old LHP twice before, once in 2016 and once last year. He’s coming off the 10-day IL where he was sidelined due to back spasms. 

Keuchel has always had a low strikeout rate by modern standards. His career K% is 18.9%. This year it’s fallen to below 15%. League average is 23.2%. But Keuchel has been effective through minimizing hard contact and inducing ground balls. He throws an equal mix of Cutter, Changeup and Sinker (87.3 mph). No real fastball or breaking ball to speak of. Think of him as a rich man’s Wade Miley.

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Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

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4 months ago

Shogo is one of my favorite players but I don’t think he hit a home run today.

4 months ago

Ugh, the Phillies and Cards both won double headers.