For those who had the Cincinnati Reds penciled in for 100 losses this season, it might be time to listen to the GPS on their car: “Re-calculate.”
With a 4-2 victory Thursday afternoon over the Cleveland Guardians in Progressive Field, the Reds have won eight of their last 12 since opening the season at 3-22.
And they spliced together their winning ways without Joey Votto, Jonathan India and Nick Senzel.
The Reds completed a two-game sweep of Guardians behind the nearly immaculate pitching of Tyler Mahle and a three-run eighth inning.
For seven innings it was a picturesque pitching argument between Mahle and Cal Quantrill, a son to Paul Quantrill, a major league pitcher for seven teams over a 14-year career.
It was 1-1 after seven innings, but both pitchers were at or over the magic 100-pitch mark and both were pulled.
The Reds bullpen responded. The Guardians bullpen did not.
Mahle pitched 6 1/3 innings and held the Guardians to one run and six hits. He left with one out in the second when he issued a walk on his 105th pitch.
And he did not get credit for the win. That went to Luis Cessa, who replaced Mahle in the seventh inning when it was 1-1.
Cleveland’s run came in the second inning when Owen Miller doubled and Ahmed Rosario followed with a single, the only two hits Mahle gave up.
That brought up power-hitting Franmil Reyes and he nearly launched a three-run home run. Center fielder Albert Almora Jr. caught the ball with his posterior pasted against the wall, 410 feet from home plate.
Instead of a home run, it was a sacrifice fly and a 1-0 Guardians lead. Counting the sacrifice fly, Mahle retired 13 in a row until he issued the walk that ended his day.
Meanwhile, Quantrill gave up a solar blast to Tyler Naquin, a 423-foot home run to left center with one out in the fifth.
That’s all the Reds could muster against Quantrill, but Cleveland manager Terry Francona removed him after seven innings and 95 pitches.
The Reds scored one run off him on five hits but did not have a single runner in scoring position.
That changed dramatically in the eighth against Cleveland relief pitcher Trevor Stephan. The Reds ripped three straight singles to open the inning — Naquin, Colin Moran and Kyle Farmer.
Farmer’s single pushed the Reds in front, 2-1, Almora lofted a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 and a fourth run scored when pitcher Stephan threw T.J. Friedl’s bunt into right field.
Naquin, who homered and singled, was voted the Ohio Cup’s Frank Robinson Most Outstanding Player award. The two teams split the season series with Cleveland winning two in Cincinnati and Cincinnati winning two in Cleveland. But the Guardians retained the Ohio Cup.
The Guardians threatened in the seventh when it was still 1-1. After Mahle walked Rosario with one out, Cessa walked Reyes. But he retired Andres Gimenez and Richie Palacios to preserve the tie.
More trouble surfaced in the Cleveland eighth against Reds reliever Alexis Diaz. With one out, he walked Myles Straw and Steven Kwan.
That brought up Jose Ramirez, a dangerous hitter that Diaz struck out in the 10th inning to end Tuesday’s game.
This time Ramirez singled to right for a run, cutting Cincinnati’s lead to 4-2. And the Guardians had the potential tying runs on base.
Tony Santillan replaced Diaz and faced one hitter and got two outs — a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
Santillan returned for the ninth and quickly flicked the Guardians aside in 1-2-3 order for his second save. And it handed Cleveland its fifth loss in its last six games.