Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle has always been a fastball thrower.
In all four of Mahle’s seasons in MLB, he has thrown his fastball at least 50 percent of the time. Between 2017 and 2020, Mahle’s average fastball velocity rose from 92.9 mph to 93.9, but it hadn’t been his go-to put-away pitch.
In the Reds 9-6 win on Saturday over the St. Louis Cardinals, Mahle allowed four hits and two runs with nine strikeouts. And his fastball was as good as it has ever been.
Mahle’s fastball touched 98 mph, which was the second fastest pitch of his career. And he used his fastball for six of his nine strikeouts.
“(It was all) adrenaline and (my) first real game with fans,” Mahle said. “A lot of stuff goes into it. (I) didn’t work on my (velocity), it just kind of comes with doing all the stuff off the field, and a lot of adrenaline.”
Last season, Mahle had 30 strikeouts with his fastball in 10 starts, and he had nearly as many strikeouts with his slider. On Saturday, Mahle got a first inning strikeout with a 91 mph slider that tailed outside the strike zone. After that, Mahle finished all but one of his strikeouts with a fastball.
“I thought he had a great fastball,” manager David Bell said. “I thought he has as good a fastball -- similar to what we saw most of last season, and when he has his fastball going, it's a big strength of his.”
The other significant uptick in velocity on the Reds pitching staff was a more gradual climb. Relief pitcher Cionel Pérez’s average fastball was 95 mph last season, but he ramped up to the high 90s during spring training.
On Saturday in his Reds debut, Pérez allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings. Pérez hit 99 mph, and he impressed Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.
“For him to be able to get 99 out of his arm with his body is crazy to me,” Barnhart said. “It feels like it gets a different gear. He pitched great in spring training and he pitched great today so I’m happy for him.”
Jesse Winker’s status is TBD
In the middle of the sixth inning on Saturday, left fielder Jesse Winker subbed out of the game.
Bell said that Winker “wasn’t feeling great,” and Winker wasn’t in the lineup on Sunday.
“I haven’t spoken with him yet today,” Bell said. “Just based on how he was feeling last night, he wasn’t in the lineup. We’re hoping to have him here, have him available. I don’t know for sure yet though.”
No problems for Nick Senzel
After Nick Senzel had a minor injury on Thursday to his left shoulder, Bell expected that Senzel would only be available on Saturday as a pinch-runner.
But after Winker left the game, Senzel convinced Bell he was ready to play.
“(When Winker) had to come out of the game, (Senzel) was adamant of his ability and that he was going to be fine,” Bell said. “Once we put him into the game last night, that gave me confidence to be able to put him in the lineup today.”