Robert Stephenson lived up to the hype at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday in his second big-league start.
Stephenson, the Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect the last three years, allowed one run on three hits in seven innings, pitching the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies and back to the .500 mark at 7-7. He’s the first Reds pitcher to win his first two career starts since Larry Luebbers in 1993.
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As well as Stephenson pitched, he didn’t earn an extended stay with the Reds.
“He would pitch again if (Alfredo) Simon wasn’t able to go, but at this point in time, he’s had two major-league starts,” manager Bryan Price said. “They’ve been good. I still think he has some things he can improve upon. … He’ll return to Triple-A unless we have an injury and work on the areas he needs to focus on.”
The Reds recalled Stephenson from Triple-A Louisville earlier in the day to take the place of Simon, who was scratched because of a right biceps tendinitis.
In his first start April 7 against the Phillies, Stephenson gave up three runs in five innings. He went back to Louisville and allowed one run in six innings April 14. He was scheduled to start for Louisville on Tuesday, but Simon revealed his biceps pain late Monday night.
On short notice, Stephenson made the drive to Cincinnati and shut the Rockies down. He’s the first Reds pitcher to last seven innings this season. He struck out three and walked two.
“He was really good all the way to the last pitch,” Price said.
The Reds scored four runs in the second inning thanks to five hits and five stolen bases. It was the first time they stole five bases in an inning since at least the 1920s, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brandon Phillips singled, doubled and tripled in his first three at-bats and came to the plate in the eighth with the chance to become the first Red to hit for the cycle since Eric Davis in 1989 and just 15th player in baseball history to hit for the natural cycle, which is a single, double, triple and home run in order. With fans shouting “Cycle!” at him, Phillips singled to lead off eighth.