The silence emanating from the Cincinnati Reds bat rack Wednesday afternoon was deafening.
Former Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto and a steady stream of unhittable relief pitchers strung zeros across the Oracle Park scoreboard and the San Francisco Giants shut down and shut out the Reds, 3-0.
Cueto & Company held the Reds to four hits as the Reds suffered their second shutout on the 2-and-4 swing through Arizona and San Francisco.
The useless bats on this day ruined a solid pitching performance by Reds starter Tyler Mahle.
Mahle retired the first 10 Giants in order and took a no-hitter into the fifth, only to be victimized by a bizarre string of events in that fifth inning that led to two runs.
Despite the fact the Reds were shut out twice on the trip, manager David Bell considers Wednesday’s blanking an outlier.
“We’re not going to have too many of those, I’m confident of that with our offense,” he said. “Sometimes you have to give credit to Cueto and the rest of their bullpen.”
The Reds couldn’t get Cueto out of the game, but a back injury could. He left the game with two outs in the sixth inning and his line read: 0 runs, 3 hits, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts, 68 pitches.
Caleb Barager, Logan Webb, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee zip-locked the Reds on no runs, one hit and one walk over the final 3 1/3 innings.
McGee entered the ninth inning and had not given up a run or a hit this season.
Joey Votto broke that string with a two-out single but it was a hollow victory. The Giants have seven victories this season and McGee, a left-handed closer, has saved six.
Bell was nearly mesmerized while watching Cueto do his herky-jerky gyrations on the mound, maneuvers designed to distract and disarm hitters.
It worked against the Reds.
“It is different (facing Cueto),” said Bell. “He would be close to be just as good without the deceptive delivery. But I do think it adds to his game. He has mastered it.
“It is hard to watch on the other side when he is pitching that well, but at the same time it’s like watching a master out there,” Bell added. “He has such a flow on the mound. It is kind of beautiful to watch.”
Mahle was beautiful to watch, too, for four innings until the occult seemed to strike him in the fifth. Donovan Solano began it with a bloop to short right. Right fielder Nick Castellanos barged in and second baseman Jonathan India charged out. It looked catchable by India, but he pulled up at the last instant and the ball fell for a single.
Bell faulted neither Castellanos nor India.
“I don’t think it was either guy’s ball,” he said. “It was a hit. It really was right in between them both. They were both going hard for it.”
Brandon Crawford grounded into a fielder’s choice and took Solano’s place on first base.
Austin Slater ripped one up ‘Triples Alley’ to a nook in deepest right center and Crawford scored the game’s first run from first base. Slater moved from second to third on a passed ball charged to Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson.
Former Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a hard grounder to Suarez, drawn in close to cut down the run. Slater, though, is quick and speedy and he beat Suarez’s hard throw home and it was 2-0.
“It was really good baserunning by Slater,” said Bell. “He had a great break. There is a technique in breaking from third base and he did it perfectly. Geno (Suarez) had to backhand it and didn’t have time to check it. He had to come up and throw.
“We were in a defense designed to cut down the run at the plate and I just thought it was a good play by their offense,” he added. “We were doing everything we could to cut down the run and the throw was worth the chance.”
The Giants added a not-needed insurance run in the eighth when relief pitcher Sal Romano walked Tommy La Stella to open the inning. Romano balked him to second.
Mauricio Dubon popped one behind first base in fair territory. While running full-throttle, second baseman India tried to make a basket catch and dropped it as La Stella scored to make it 3-0.
It was ruled a hit, but Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley said adamantly, “This is the big leagues. That was an error.”
Bell was effusive in his praise for Mahle’s five innings of two-run, three-hit, two-walk, seven strikeout afternoon.
“He’s young and it has been a process throughout his development,” said Bell. “The last month of last season, spring training and his three starts he has taken some big steps. He did a long time in the minors and he is starting to get that same kind of confidence at this level.
“We look forward to him going deeper into games because he is strong. He is going to get a complete game or two this year.”
First, though, the Reds have to score him some runs.
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