CHICAGO -- Want to know how the Reds' bullpen can be better in the second half? Get more starts like the kind Anthony DeSclafani has provided since his return from the disabled list.
In five of his six starts -- including one in the Reds' 5-3 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday for a series win -- DeSclafani has worked at least six innings. In three of the starts, he's worked at least into the seventh. That allows manager Bryan Price to utilize his bullpen conservatively with roles in mind rather than freshest arm available.
"That's how baseball is played when you win," said Price, who got back-to-back Reds wins over the Cubs for the first time since Aug. 27-28, 2014. "You don't have to use five relievers in the game to try to win. That's usually a bad sign, unless you're a total matchup manager. I don't do that a great deal."
DeSclafani earned the victory over Chicago with six innings, three earned runs, eight hits, no walks and six strikeouts. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, and Michael Lorenzen (two innings) and Tony Cingrani took it from there.
In his six starts since returning June 10 from a strained left oblique injury that occurred in Spring Training, DeSclafani is 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA. Over 36 1/3 innings, he's allowed 38 hits and three homers -- including one by Ben Zobrist on Wednesday -- with nine walks and 29 strikeouts.
"Anthony has kept us in every ballgame he's been in so far this year," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "That's all you can ask for. The guy goes out and holds arguably the best offensive team in the league to three runs and keeps you in the game until the seventh inning. He's done his job. He's done that all year so far, and hopefully we can keep that rolling."
In four of DeSclafani's starts, Price has needed to use either one or two relievers to finish. The manager used three pitchers from the bullpen Friday at Washington during DeSclafani's last time out, but it was a 14-inning defeat.
"I'm just going until the ball is taken away from me. I was around 90-pitch count and probably had another inning in me," DeSclafani said. "I'm really just trying to throw up quality starts, go as many innings as I can and give up the least runs I can. [I'm] really just going as deep as I can so the bullpen doesn't have to go as long toward the end of the game."
Besides being a bullpen preserver, DeSclafani has emerged as beacon for a rotation that has struggled to put deep starts together.
The Reds will re-calibrate their rotation order in the second half and could potentially put DeSclafani back up in the front.
"He competes in the strike zone. He's a great guy to look to," Price said. "I think you're really fortunate if you pitch the day after Anthony right now. The younger guys, less experienced guys can see how he goes about his business with a lot of faith and belief in his stuff and attacking the strike zone and throwing strikes and knowing how to pitch, even when he's behind. To see how he's on the attack is a good message for the other guys who pitch after him."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.