The sample size isn’t exactly definitive, but it is intriguing.
Robert Stephenson’s start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday extended to 12 the number of consecutive games in which Cincinnati Reds starting pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs.
The rookie right-hander allowed just one run while pitching two batters into the seventh inning, and the Reds pulled away for an 9-3 win before a crowd of 12,135 at Great American Ball Park.
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Stephenson’s effort dropped to 2.82 the starting pitcher’s combined earned-run average over those 12 games. The Reds are 7-5 over that span and 19-16 since July 29.
“It’s been fun to watch,” Stephenson said. “If we can keep it up, next year could be a lot of fun.”
Stephenson (4-4) allowed four hits and five walks with seven strikeouts and worked out of several jams – including two walks to Milwaukee starting pitcher Zach Davies – while winning his fourth consecutive start.
“Obvious, it was tough working out of those jams,” he said. “Luckily, the walks didn’t end up hurting me, but I have to work on that. I wasn’t too mad about three of the walks, but the two to Davies bothered me.”
Raisel Iglesias had to relieve Ariel Hernandez, who walked three and gave up a two-run homer in the eighth, and picked up his 25th save of the season and seventh of two innings, tying Scott Williamson in 1999 for the second-most by a Reds reliever in one season. Danny Graves finished that season with 10.
Iglesias’s seven two-inning saves are the most by any major league pitcher since Toronto’s Billy Koch and Boston’s Derek Lowe each had seven in 2000.
For the second consecutive day, the Reds starting pitcher sparked a rally that led to the game’s first run – both in the third inning. On Monday, it was Homer Bailey’s one-out single to center that led to him scoring on a bases-loaded walk by Joey Votto.
On Tuesday, Stephenson led off the third with a drive to deep right-center field that center fielder Jonathan Villar tracked down but was unable to hold on to, being charged with a two-base error. Stephenson went to third on Billy Hamilton’s sacrifice and scored on Zack Zocart’s bloop to short center field that Villar just issed corralling with a diving catch.
Cozart’s hit snapped at 14 his streak of consecutive hitless at bats.
Hamilton also saw a streak end in the fifth. He had the major leagues’ longest active streak of consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout at 29 before going down swinging.
The Reds added a run in the sixth on Scooter Gennett’s two-out double to deep left-center field and Eugenio Suarez’s single, knocking Davies (16-8), Milwaukee’s wins leader, out of the game.
The Brewers loaded the bases with two walks sandwiched around a single with nobody out in the fourth against Stephenson, who proceeded to strike out Domingo Santana, Stephen Vogt and Jonathan Villar to escape.
“He walked the tightrope very well,” manager Bryan Price said. “That’s a big difference from earlier in the season – that he can walk that tightrope. That fourth inning is when Milwaukee could’ve won the game.”
The Reds also turned double plays in the fifth and sixth to help Stephenson erase walks. Right fielder Scott Schebler and Votto also teamed up on a double play in the third when Villar took off for second on Orlando Arcia’s fly ball and was easily caught off first base.
Santana and Vogt knocked Stephenson out of the game with back-to-back leadoff doubles in the seventh, but Asher Wojciechowski and overcame two walks with strikeouts of pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar and Neil Walker.
The Reds opened up some breathing room with a five-run seventh capped by Scooter Gennett’s 24th homer of the season, a three-run shot into the right field seats set up by control-plagued Brewers right-hander Jacob Barnes, who walked three and uncorked two wild pitches while giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
They added two runs in the eighth on Hamilton’s safety squeeze and Cozart’s single to center.