Mahle Strikes Out Career-High Nine Hitters In Win

May 31, 2017

Pensacola Blue Wahoos right-hander Tyler Mahle didn’t know that the Cincinnati Reds top dog, Dick Williams, was in the stands watching his performance.

But he said it wouldn’t have mattered if he did know that the Reds president of baseball operations and general manager was there.

Mahle threw seven scoreless innings, gave up three hits and struck out a career-high nine batters as the Blue Wahoos beat the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, 6-0, in front of 3,571 fans at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

“I just felt good tonight,” he said. “I had control of all my pitches. My arm felt live.”

It’s the kind of outing that Pensacola manager Pat Kelly has come to expect from the 22-year-old, who Baseball America says is the Reds 12th best prospect in the organization.

“That’s normal for him this year,” Kelly said. “He has had 11 really good starts that we’ve seen so far.”

The Blue Wahoos lineup staked Mahle to a 6-0 lead, something he’s not used to. It allowed him to focus on pitching and earn his first victory since May 8 and first victory after losing two games. He improved to 6-2 on the year and lowered his earned-run average to 1.55.

For the Blue Wahoos it was the team’s sixth shutout win this season. The team improved to 29-22 overall to remain in first place in the Southern League South Division. Pensacola has either led the division or been tied for first in 51 of 57 days this season. With the second place Biloxi Shuckers losing, 7-3, Tuesday to the Mobile BayBears, Pensacola is now up three games in the standings.

“We need to obviously win every series,” said Mahle about the tight race for the first half crown.

Mahle, the Southern League Player of the Month in April, is doing his best by leading the Southern League in victories (6), and having the second-best strikeout total (72), ERA (1.55) and batting average by opponents (.182).

Pensacola is vying to become the first team since the Tennessee Smokies from 2009 to 2011 win four straight half-division titles.

Pensacola scored first when Jacksonville starter Omar Bencomo had an unusual case of lack of control. The Jumbo Shrimps right hander walked the bases loaded. He entered the game allowing just 1.27 walks per nine innings — third best in the Southern League. Pensacola first baseman Eric Jagielo hit a weak blooper to left field that scored left fielder Tyler Goeddel to put the Blue Wahoos on top, 1-0.

Mahle helped himself in the fourth inning when he hit a chopper to shortstop that scored second baseman Alex Blandino to put the Blue Wahoos up, 2-0. With two outs, center fielder Gabriel Guerrero poked a line drive single to right field that drove in both Mahle and Goeddel for a, 4-0, Pensacola lead.

Kelly praised Guerrero’s clutch two-out single.

“We get all those walks and we can’t take advantage of them,” Kelly said, pointing out that Pensacola batters walked seven times in the game. “You think, ‘Are we only going to get one run again?’ Guerrero punching the ball into the gap over there gave us two huge runs.”

Kelly also credited Guerrero’s defense in center field Tuesday. He caught five balls, chasing down three of them.

“Guerrero played terrific,” Kelly said. “To me if you can run, center field is a really good position to play. Gabby can run very well. He’s improving his angles.”

Pensacola tacked on another run in the fifth inning to go up, 5-0, when with two outs shortstop Blake Trahan doubled to drive in Blandino. The Blue Wahoos extended the lead, 6-0, when Jagielo hit a deep sacrifice fly ball to the warning track in right field to score third baseman Josh VanMeter, who doubled to the left center gap to lead-off the inning.

Both Guerrero, who was 1-4 with two RBIs, and Jagielo, who was 1-3 with two RBIs, led the Blue Wahoos at the plate.

The Cincinnati Reds promoted Double-A Blue Wahoos right-hander Austin Ross (5-0, 1.21 ERA) to the Triple-A Louisville Bats. High-A Daytona Tortugas right-hander Jose Lopez (2-4, 2.84) was promoted to replace Ross.

In addition, former Blue Wahoos starter Jackson Stephens got called up to the Cincinnati Reds. The 23-year-old (3-3, 5.79 ERA) will make his Major League debut, if he gets into a game.

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