PHOENIX –– With a runner on base and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday, Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle was behind 2-0 in the count against Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Josh Rojas.
Mahle dialed up a 94.8 mph fastball for strike one. Then a 95.6 mph fastball for strike two. Then a 95.8 mph fastball for strike three. With his fastball working as well as it ever has, Mahle got out of the inning and made his best start of his career.
Mahle pitched nine shutout innings as the Reds beat the Diamondbacks, 5-3, in the 12th inning. He struck out 12 batters on 119 pitches, and Reds right fielder Albert Almora Jr. hit the go-ahead triple in the 12th to get the Reds a win.
It was an incredible moment in Mahle’s midseason turnaround. Mahle has used his fastball to fuel this recent stretch, and he has allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his last eight starts.
On May 3, Mahle had a 7.01 ERA, a poor start to the season hindered by his inability to land fastballs for strikes early in counts. Around that time, Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson worked with Mahle on a plan to throw more strikes specifically in 1-1 counts, and Mahle’s season took off after that meeting.
His fastball has been the biggest reason why. On Tuesday, Mahle used the pitch for 11 of his 12 strikeouts. He pitched so far into the game because he landed the pitch in the strike zone early in counts and got swings and misses on high fastballs to finish at-bats.
Mahle’s fastball is why the Reds viewed him as a No. 2 starting pitcher in a quality rotation entering the season. Recently, Mahle has looked the part with a complementary splitter that accents his signature pitch. Mahle threw nine innings for the first time in MLB and tied his career-high in strikeouts.
Mahle, 27, is still in just his second season where he had a locked-in spot in the Reds rotation. He’s in his first full season as the front-half of the rotation starting pitcher for the Reds. He’s a starting pitcher still on the rise whose potential can’t be questioned when he’s throwing strikes consistently. At the start of the year, Reds manager David Bell said Mahle was quietly becoming one of the best pitchers in the National League.
The game went to extra-innings tied at zero. In the 10th, Reds pinch-hitter TJ Friedl hit a go-ahead RBI double, but Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta matched him with an RBI double in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds reliever Alexis Díaz.
Farmer put the Reds ahead 3-1 in the top of the 11th with a two-run single. But Reds reliever Luis Cessa allowed the two game-tying runs by throwing wild pitches in the dirt with runners on third base.
Then in the 12th, Almora Jr. gave the Reds the lead with a triple down the right field line. He scored on an RBI single by Reds second baseman Jonathan India as the Reds took a 5-3 lead.