Reds go for series split against Pirates

The Cincinnati Reds seem to have found their offense, just in time to try for split of their four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday at PNC Park.

The Reds (2-5) pounded out 11 hits Saturday in a 7-4 feel-good win, a night after they got 13 hits but lost. In their first five games, they had 15 hits total.

“Talk about a team win,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said after Saturday’s game. “There were a lot of great things.”

Chief among them was Eugenio Suarez’s 3-for-4 night with a homer, a walk and five RBIs.

“You know, it’s early. Streaks like that happen,” Jesse Winker told the Cincinnati Enquirer of the Reds slow start. “I think it’s just when it’s the first six games of the year, everyone notices it. I mean, stuff like that happens. We were playing good ball and we just couldn’t seem to get the hit and tonight we got that hit.”

Pittsburgh (6-2), which missed a chance to go 7-1 for the first time since 1973, had been averaging nearly seven runs before Saturday’s loss and has been one of baseball’s surprising teams early this season.

In the series finale, Cincinnati right-hander Tyler Mahle (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will be matched against Pirates righty Jameson Taillon (1-0, 3.38 ERA).

On a Reds roster that is full of young players, Mahle, 23, is the only rookie in the rotation. In his first start this season and fifth of his career, he shut out the defending champion Chicago Cubs over six innings, allowing one hit and two walks, with seven strikeouts, for Cincinnati’s only win in its first six games.

“I located my fastball really well,” Mahle said. “The slider and changeup came later — maybe the last couple innings. For the most part, I was able to take over the game, kind of, with my fastball.”

Price called it a “really professional outing for a young man. … He’s got a lot of room to grow and get better and get acclimated at this level, but I’m very confident he can be a very good pitcher at this level.”

Even Cubs manager Joe Maddon noticed.

“This guy has superior stuff,” Maddon told The Athletic. “He’s got a plus fastball, plus breaking ball and he’s got this little jump at the end. He’s going to be really good. You may not have heard of him before, but if he stays well, you’re going to hear of him in the future.”

Mahle made two of his four major league starts after being called up last season against Pittsburgh, going 0-2 with 2.45 ERA.

Taillon is 1-2 with a 5.30 ERA in seven career starts against Cincinnati He struggled some against the Reds last year, going 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in five starts.

Taillon, who made only 25 starts last season because of injuries and treatment for testicular cancer, said he feels like a better, stronger player this season. He tied a career high with nine strikeouts Monday in Pittsburgh’s home-opening win.

“Being healthy and having a full year under my belt. Understanding what I need to do throwing-wise, to get myself in a good spot,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review regarding his success.