Reds’ Mahle continues breakout season with third big-league start
NEW YORK — The Cincinnati Reds hope rookie right-hander Tyler Mahle can continue building a foundation when he heads to the mound Thursday night.
The New York Mets are just looking for a sign, any sign, that veteran right-hander Matt Harvey is capable of rebuilding his career after two injury-riddled seasons.
The pair of pitchers with similar yet disparate goals are scheduled to meet Thursday night, when the Reds visit the Mets in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field.
The rebuilding Reds and Mets each earned wins on Wednesday. Host Cincinnati (61-79) completed a three-game sweep of the NL Central- and wild card-contending Milwaukee Brewers with a 7-1 victory. New York (60-79) beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 in a game shortened to six innings by rain.
Mahle (0-1, 2.45 ERA) will be making his third big league start since being promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 27. Harvey (4-4, 5.97) is starting for the second time since being activated from the disabled list last Saturday.
The 22-year-old Mahle is looking to cap a breakout season by laying claim to a rotation spot in 2018. Mahle didn’t factor into the decision in his most recent start last Saturday despite blanking the Pittsburgh Pirates over six innings in the Reds’ 5-0 loss.
The scoreless outing was highlighted by a fifth inning in which Mahle wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam. He then ended his night by tossing a hitless sixth and reaching the 100-pitch mark (105) for the 11th time in 26 starts this season among the Reds, Louisville and Double-A Pensacola.
“This is why he’s here,” Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters afterward. “He’s here in September to get some experience that will help him moving forward, especially moving into next year. Getting him a chance to get up over 100 pitches, pitch out of his own issues there in the fifth and go back out for a nice sixth inning was really nice to see.”
The Mets are desperate to say something nice about Harvey, who took the loss last Saturday after giving up seven runs over a career-low two innings as the Mets fell to the Houston Astros, 12-8.
The start was the first in the majors since June 14 for Harvey, who was sidelined by a stress injury to the scapula in his right shoulder. Despite subpar numbers on a rehab stint (a 4.63 ERA in three starts between Class A Brooklyn and Double-A Binghamton) and last Saturday’s hiccup, Harvey said he feels good physically and that he’ll be fine once he modifies mechanics that have grown rusty from a lack of use.
“I’m fully confident that within the next start, the start after that or whatever it is, by the end of this season, I’ll be comfortable on the mound and throwing to hitters,” Harvey told reporters last Saturday. “There’s not one doubt in my mind that with health, mechanics will come and so will success.”
All three elements have been hard to come by the last two seasons for Harvey, whose 2016 campaign ended when he underwent surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in July. He is just 8-14 with a 5.35 ERA in 31 starts since the start of last year after opening his career by going 25-18 with a 2.53 ERA in 65 starts from 2012 through 2015. Harvey missed the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Mahle has never faced the Mets. Harvey is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.
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