Cincinnati Reds: Pulling Tyler Mahle after 98 pitches was the correct call

Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle allowed just one hit through six innings.

Whether or not the fans agree, David Bell’s decision to pull Tyler Mahle after the sixth inning in last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians was the correct call. Mahle had thrown 98 pitches and the Cincinnati Reds skipper removed the right-hander from the game. The Reds, who led 2-0 at the time of Mahle’s departure, fell 4-2 after the bullpen surrendered yet another lead.

What happened on Tuesday night really has little to do with Bell’s decision to remove Mahle from the game. In fact, Tuesday’s results have little to do with who Bell brought in from the bullpen. Tuesday’s loss was, yet again, a product of the Reds bullpen not performing.

Let’s address the issue of pulling Tyler Mahle first, shall we? Yes, he was terrific. Mahle allowed just one hit over six innings, walked two batters and struck out six. We’ve seen similar performances from Mahle before, but he was in the zone last night. However, in today’s game, if you want to go deep into a ball game, you must be efficient.

Mahle struggled early with his control, running the count full with Cesar Hernandez, followed by a seven-pitch walk to José Ramirez. Mahle got out of the inning unscathed, but more of the same awaited him in the second inning. Mahle ran the count full before striking out Franmil Reyes and walked Bradley Zimmer on five pitches. Mahle’s pitch count was at 40 after just two innings.

Mahle seemed to settled in, however, and was dealing as the game went along. The lone hit off the California native came in the top of the third inning, but Mahle struck out the next two batters and got out of the inning without allowing any runs. The following three innings saw Mahle set the Indians down in order.

I, for one, was shocked to see Mahle return in the sixth with the dreaded third-time through the lineup awaiting him while already sitting on 83 pitches. Last season, Mahle allowed an OPS of 1.004 when facing opposing hitters for a third time during a game. To put it in perspective, Mahle allowed an OPS of .772 the first time through the order and .669 the second time through.

Tyler Mahle went over the 98-pitch mark on five occasions last season and only three times did he make it past the sixth inning. The numbers were there, and Mahle even agreed with David Bell’s decision. Here’s what he had to say via Reds.com:

“Ninety-[eight] pitches, that’s more pitches than I’ve thrown in a long time. So I think no doubt it was the right call. I want to keep going out until they take it out of my hand.”

Now, onto the bullpen. Yikes! Once again, the Reds relievers let the lead slip away. But, for those questioning Bell’s decision, let’s look at the numbers once again. Heading into last night’s game, Pedro Strop and Lucas Sims, the two pitchers who entered the game in the seventh inning, were the only Reds relievers to have not allowed a run this season.

For those curious about why Bell went with Nate Jones rather than Amir Garrett to start the top of the eighth inning with the score tied, let’s look at the numbers once again. The first Indians batter that inning was Carlos Santana who hit better off left-handed pitching last season (.979 OPS) than right-handed pitching (.897 OPS).

The next batter was Reyes, who absolutely crushes left-handers. Last season, Reyes slashed .304/.381/.542 against southpaws while putting up a slash line of just .238/.290/.476 against right-handers. Garrett eventually came in after Jones exited and retired the final two batters of the inning.

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Of course this loss stings because it was a winnable game against one of the toughest pitchers in the game. But had Bell left Mahle in to start the seventh and the results were the same, Reds fans would question why he left him in after throwing 98 pitches. It was the correct call to remove Tyler Mahle from the game, but the results are not what fans wanted to see.