CINCINNATI — With Luis Castillo off the market after being traded by the Reds to the Mariners on Friday for a premium package of prospects, the demand for starting pitching could intensify as Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline approaches.
Castillo’s former teammate, Tyler Mahle, isn’t viewed as being on the same tier, but he could still help a contender willing to deal. As scouts did their due diligence at Great American Ball Park on Saturday, Mahle did mostly solid work over six innings for Cincinnati during an 8-2 victory over the Orioles.
“I just hope it’s not the last one,” Reds center fielder Nick Senzel said of Mahle’s start.
It very well could be his final start for the Reds, but Mahle made it count as he allowed two earned runs and five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He retired his final 13 batters in a row.
“It’s kind of typical of what we’ve seen from Tyler for a long time where he just gets stronger as the game goes on,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I think that was an extreme example tonight.”
Over his last nine starts, Mahle has a 2.83 ERA while working at least six innings in eight of the games. He missed two starts earlier this month on the injured list with a right shoulder strain but showed no ill effects from the issue.
Mahle again showed no strain from the myriad trade rumors as well and took this week’s trades of Castillo and outfielder Tyler Naquin in stride.
“I’m pretty realistic,” Mahle said. “It is what it is and all that stuff. It’s something that’s going to happen probably to everyone at some point, most guys, I guess. I don’t think it’s anything crazy.”
Mahle’s contractual situation makes him attractive to clubs beyond his ability. He is making $5.2 million in 2022 and, like Castillo, is under club control through the 2023 season. The Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Twins are among teams seeking starting pitching.
“Every time he’s on the mound, he’s going to give you six strong innings no matter what. I love playing behind him,” said Reds second baseman Jonathan India. “And Castillo, he’s gone, but he was amazing. I’ve learned a lot from both of them. Hopefully we stick with Mahle.”
It wasn’t all smooth vs. Baltimore as Mahle endured a shaky first two innings. He gave up three straight one-out hits in the first inning and slipped on his delivery for a run-scoring balk that put him in a 2-0 hole. The Orioles notched two hits in the second inning, but a double play helped limit more damage.
“A couple of balls got through, a couple of ground balls,” said Mahle, who is 5-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 19 starts overall. “The balk, my cleat clipped the mound and I slipped. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, I actually felt really good today. Having a first like that really sucked because I felt really good. But after that, I was able to do what I was able to do.”
Following Tyler Nevin’s two-out single in the top of the second, Mahle did not have another batter reach safely for the remainder of his night and finished with 98 pitches.
Mahle’s primary pitch — the four-seam fastball — averaged 93.5 mph, topped at 96.7 mph and was used 53 times. He also notched seven of his total outs with ground balls.
“He settled down nicely,” Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini said. “I thought he had one of the better fastballs I’ve seen actually. It was very sneaky, very hoppy. He got on you. He pitched really well, hit his spots and didn’t leave a lot of mistakes over the plate. He really was living mostly on the outside corner but he’d get a few up and in, too. I was pretty impressed with him.”
Meanwhile, the Reds scored eight unanswered runs to support Mahle. Against Orioles starter Dean Kremer, Jake Fraley hit an RBI single in the fourth inning, and India’s two-run homer to left field made it a 4-2 Cincinnati lead. Joey Votto led off the bottom of the fifth with a homer to right field — his fourth in his last nine games and 10th overall. Fraley added a two-run homer off reliever Beau Sulser to right field for the first three-hit game of his career in his first action since April 30.