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Mahle, Reds to face another rookie in Phillies' Suarez

By
Alan Robinson, The Sports Xchange
Tyler Mahle and the Cincinnati Reds face the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Tyler Mahle and the Cincinnati Reds face the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

The Cincinnati Reds certainly have seen this before. In fact, they keep seeing it and seeing it.

For the third time in four games Thursday, Cincinnati will go up against a pitcher making his first major league start. And for the fourth game in a row, the Reds will face a rookie starting pitcher.

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Now, Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez -- only a month after being promoted from Double-A to Triple-A -- can only to hope to replicate what St. Louis Cardinals debut starters Daniel Poncedeleon and Austin Gomber did against the Reds this week.

Poncedeleon, in his major league debut, pitched seven no-hit innings before being lifted Monday in what became a 2-1 Reds victory, even though Cincinnati had only one hit until the ninth inning. The next night, Gomber pitched no-hit ball for 6 1/3 innings in his first career start before giving up two hits, and St. Louis went on to win 4-2 in the 11th inning.

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The Reds fared better Wednesday against Cardinals rookie starter Jack Flaherty, who surrendered Eugenio Suarez's third homer in as many games -- a two-run shot in the first --while allowing three runs over five innings of Cincinnati's 7-3 victory.

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Ranger Suarez will be joining a first-place club that's playing well, as the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second time in 15 hours on Wednesday, winning 7-3 to improve to 16-8 in their last 24 games. They're 3-0 against the Reds this season.

The 22-year-old Suarez was being eyed by the Baltimore Orioles as a possible acquisition before they decided to trade infielder Manny Machado to the Dodgers rather than the Phillies. Suarez was 3-1 with an 0.91 ERA in his last eight minor league starts, going 1-0 with an 0.57 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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"He's shown the ability to get swings and misses in and out of the strike zone," Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's got a good sinker and incredible demeanor -- we saw it in spring training. There's some courage there. He has a lot of swag on the mound, there's some bravado. I don't think situations get too big for him. We have a lot of confidence in him and we believe he has a lot of confidence in himself."

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Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle (7-8), coming off two consecutive rough starts, will oppose Suarez and make his first career appearance against Philadelphia. He leads NL rookies in wins, starts (20), innings pitched (106 1/3) and strikeouts (101), but he gave up a combined 11 earned runs and 14 hits over eight innings in losing last two starts, to the Pirates (12-1) and the Indians (19-4).

The last-place Reds have lost five of seven, but they took two of three from St. Louis and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 series.

"That's something we haven't done a lot of the last couple of years," said Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth. "We're starting to play better, things are starting to turn around."

The Reds had been held to two runs or fewer in their previous five games.

"It was a better day offensively," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We mixed in a few walks there to keep rallies going, and there were a lot of good at-bats."

Just as Gomber was the first left-hander to start for St. Louis all season, Suarez will be the first left-hander to start for Philadelphia since Adam Morgan on Sept. 28, 2016, a span of 267 games. Like the Cardinals, the Phillies wanted to use a left-handed starter against a predominantly left-handed hitting Reds lineup.

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The Phillies built on the momentum of their 7-4, 16-inning win over the Dodgers on Tuesday night by scoring five times Wednesday in a fifth inning started by Scott Kingery's homer and finished off by Carlos Santana's three-run triple, making it 6-1.

"I've said it before, we feed off each other," Kingery said. "We see someone get a big hit and we want to follow up with our own big hit. It's something we've done all year. ... We had a chance to win all three (Dodgers) games, our pitching was outstanding and hitting got the job done. That's great momentum for us."

The Phillies started getting hot on June 10 and have won 25 of 39 since then, but the Reds have taken 23 of 37 over the same span after starting their season 8-27.

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