Wahoos Shutout Chattanooga

June 30, 2016

Someone forgot to tell Tyler Mahle that the hitters in Double-A are better than the ones he dominated in Single-A.

Seemingly without a hitch, Mahle has made the mid-season jump to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos from the High-A Daytona Tortugas, so far.

In his Blue Wahoos Stadium debut, the 21-year-old Mahle showed he belongs here by throwing five scoreless innings, striking out eight, including four in a row, and pitching his way out of two bases-loaded jams.

His poise helped Pensacola win the opener of the five game series against Chattanooga, shutting them out, 3-0, in front of the Blue Wahoos 19th sellout crowd of 5,038 Wednesday.

“There’s not a huge difference but they will make you pay if you make a mistake,” Mahle said of Southern League hitters. “They’re a little more selective. They know what they want to hit. I just trust my stuff and throw strikes.”

Pensacola manager Pat Kelly has followed Mahle, who’s ranked the Cincinnati Reds No. 10 prospect and won the Chief Bender Award as the Reds Minor League Player of the Year last season.

“He’s been a real good pitcher. All the way through the minor leagues he has been effective,” Kelly said. “He got into a couple of jams but he did a great of pitching out of them.”

The right hander, selected in round seven of the 2013 draft, struck out four in a row and dug himself out of a two-out, bases loaded jam in the fourth inning by striking out Chattanooga first baseman D.J. Hicks on a 92 mph fastball.

In the fifth inning, the Lookouts loaded the bases with no outs but Mahle then forced leadoff hitter Zach Granite to fly out to right field and struck out both second baseman Ryan Walker and right fielder Daniel Palka, who leads the Southern League in homeruns (19) and is tied for first in RBIs (59).

His strikeout of Palka was a key point in the game. Palka was 5-17 with one home run and three RBIs in the teams’ first meeting in May. He went 1-3 with a walk Wednesday.

“I saw his bat speed and didn’t want him to run into a fastball,” Mahle said. “They had a good idea how to pitch him since he hit us pretty well last time.”

Mahle ended up working five scoreless innings, allowing four hits, walking two and striking out eight. He’s now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. In his two starts, Mahle has racked up 16 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched in his two starts for the Blue Wahoos. On the season, he has 92 strikeouts in 89.1 innings this season between Daytona and Pensacola.

In the first half of the 2016 season with Daytona, Mahle dominated hitters, just like he has so far in Pensacola. He allowed opponents to hit just .206 against him for the Tortugas. It included a complete game, no-hitter June 13 against Jupiter Hammerheads. He was 8-3 with a 2.50 ERA and led the Florida State League in strikeouts with 76 and innings pitched with 79.1.

Pensacola scored first when first baseman Ray Chang hit a sharp two-out line drive single to left field and then shortstop Zach Vincej followed with a double down the left field line to score Chang from first to put the Blue Wahoos up, 1-0.

Pensacola scored two more times in the fifth inning to go ahead, 3-0.

Blue Wahoos left fielder Phillip Ervin hit a screamer that went through the shortstop’s legs. Ervin swiped second for his 23 steal of the season and advanced to third when the catcher’s throw rolled into centerfield. He then scored on a wild pitch by Chattanooga starter David Hurlbut to make it a, 2-0, game.

With two outs, Brandon Dixon smacked a line drive single to left field and was driven in by Taylor Sparks triple into the right field corner to increase Pensacola’s lead to 3-0.

Ervin got on base all four times Wednesday on a double, two walks and an error. His pinch hit grand slam in the Southern League All-Star game June 21 has helped increase his confidence at the plate, he said.

“Step one is to get a hit like that to get you back on top,” Ervin said. “It felt good. It was a confidence booster to get on base all four times on hits, walks or errors.”

Pensacola also showed off some spectacular defense. Blue Wahoos center fielder Brandon Dixon chased down a liner by Chattanooga DH Stuart Turner in the right-center gap threw it to second baseman Alex Blandino, who turned and threw a bullet home to catcher Joe Hudson to get Lookouts shortstop Leo Reginatto out at home plate.

Hudson also threw out two Chattanooga base runners trying to steal second base.

“Blandino threw a tremendous relay throw to get the guy out at the plate,” Kelly said. “We depend on our pitching and defense.”

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