DeSclafani shows mettle in seven-inning start

DeSclafani shows mettle in seven-inning start

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday at Great American Ball Park didn't feature many robust moments, nor was starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani particularly sharp on the mound. While it might be easy for young pitchers on the staff to watch and learn when a pitcher like DeSclafani is at the top of his game, they should also be observing when he isn't.

DeSclafani began the game by allowing a leadoff home run to Chase Utley and trailed by a 3-0 score after three innings. But he was still able to provide something the rotation often struggled with the first half -- a seven-inning start. He gave up all four runs with eight hits, one intentional walk and six strikeouts.

"He's not going to fall apart," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "If he's going to get beat, it's because he's going to get hit and he's not going to self-inflict and make a bunch of critical mistakes, walk a bunch of guys, pitch behind constantly. He's just going to compete his way through whatever you need him to do."

Through 14 starts, DeSclafani is 7-2 with a 3.27 ERA since returning from a strained left oblique on June 10. This was just his fourth outing that did not qualify as a quality start, but it was the 11th time he completed at least six innings.

Utley slugged a 2-1 fastball to right field for the homer, only the second time the first batter of a game has homered against DeSclafani. Back-to-back one-out singles by Utley and Corey Seager plated two runs in the third.

Even some of the outs were hit hard to the outfield.

"I just tried attacking," DeSclafani said. "Utley got one there in the first. I'd like to have that pitch back. In the third inning, I fell behind guys and I didn't make pitches to get out of the inning. I just tried attacking and staying in the game as long as I can. I was happy to get through seven and just trying to keep the bullpen out of it. Today was a grind, I just had to compete."

DeSclafani had 89 pitches through the sixth inning, which featured two hits and a Joc Pederson sacrifice fly for the fourth run. Price let DeSclafani bat for himself in the bottom of the sixth and it proved important, as the right-hander worked a 1-2-3 top of the seventh.

That allowed Price to use only two relievers in Tony Cingrani and Ross Ohlendorf. Earlier in the season, Reds starters often struggled to get through five innings and the bullpen became taxed while leading the Majors in innings in the first half of the season.

"That's the value of being a starting pitcher -- as we've talked about many times -- the responsibility," Price said. "When you've got guys that fall apart when they give up runs early in the game and you have to get them out, it's hard to trust that you're not going to kill your bullpen when you start these guys. So we're trying to start as many of these reliable starters that compete into the deeper innings, can survive a rough start and keep themselves in the game, because it also keeps our bullpen fresh. That's certainly paying dividends here in the second half."

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.