It was Cincinnati’s sixth straight win, 13th win in 16 games and third sweep in the last four series: four over St. Louis; three over Colorado; and three over Milwaukee.
The Brewers began the series with 14 wins in 16 games. The Reds pitching staff held them to four runs in three games: 10-2 on Monday; 2-1 in 10 innings Tuesday; and 2-1 on Wednesday.
During the current high-speed chase of the front-runners, the starting pitchers seem to have a mission of one-upmanship.
“I think it’s the whole team,” said Mahle. “Our starters have been doing great, our bullpen has been doing great and our offense has been great all season. Everything is clicking right now, knock on wood. Everyone is feeding off each other and playing just really good baseball.”
Mahle was up to his neck in trouble in the first inning when the Brewers filled the bases with one out. He got Manny Pina on a line drive to shortstop and Jace Peterson took a called third strike.
The Brewers put the first three runners on base in the third, but Mahle’s high fastball kicked in and he struck out the side. After that he retired nine in a row, seven on strikeouts.
“I stuck with it,” he said. “I was making good pitches, and they hit some balls well. But I knew I wasn’t making bad pitches and had to stick with it, and that’s what we did.”
The Reds scored their two runs off Freddy Peralta with five two-out hits.
With two outs and nobody on in the fourth, Nick Castellanos beat an infield hit and scored all the way from first on Tyler Naquin’s double to tie it 1-1.
It was still 1-1 in the seventh when the Reds had two outs and nobody on. Joey Votto was next up, and he and Tucker Barnhart had a quick conversation in the on deck circle.
“Tucker called what happened,” said Votto. “He told me, ‘You get on base and I’m going to drive you in.’”
Votto blooped a single to center, and Barnhart lived up to his word by doubling to left field. Votto chugged all the way home from first for what turned out to be the winning run, enacting an Academy Award celebratory performance after he slid home.
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“He comes up, and it couldn’t have been any better, he put such a good swing on it,”said Votto. “I got that base hit, and the second I got to first base I thought, ‘I have to be ready to score right now because my man called it.’ And what an awesome moment. I was happy for him and happy that he was right.
“Winning all the games on the road, all the games in this city is really difficult,” said Votto, referring to the Reds winning eight straight games on the road.”
Once again, the once battered and bruised Reds bullpen put the game safely to rest. Not long ago, the Reds bullpen had the worst earned run average in the majors. But over the past couple of weeks, it has been impeccable.
Brad Brach pitched a perfect seventh, Sean Doolittle retired two in the eighth and Lucas Sims took care of the last four outs with strikeouts.
Sims did give up a one-out double to pinch-hitter Willy Adames in the ninth, putting the potential tying run on second. But Sims ended the game by striking out Daniel Robertson and pinch-hitter Jackie Bradley Jr.
With five strikeouts by the bullpen, Reds pitching struck out the Brewers 17 times Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of them,” said manager David Bell. “We were in a place where they were struggling. You talk about staying tough, especially in that role. There is such a fine line between success and failure. They just kept working and the last couple of weeks they have done an incredible job and have been a big part of getting wins against good teams and good lineups.”
Reds at Padres, 8:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410