In his second start back after missing a month due to a hamstring injury, Robert Stephenson was back to his old tricks on the mound.
The Reds' No. 2 prospect gave up two unearned runs on two hits while striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings on Saturday night as Class A Dayton rallied for a 4-3 win at Quad Cities.
"I was throwing a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball, and everything was working," Stephenson said.
While he did not factor in the decision, the 20-year-old right-hander was sharp early. He retired his nine batters before walking Austin Elkins leading off the fourth, escaped the inning unscathed and breezed through a 1-2-3 fifth.
Stephenson got in trouble in the sixth after committing a throwing error and uncorking a wild pitch. He escaped again by striking out Jesse Wierzbicki with runners on second and third.
"I've kind of been good at that my whole life, being able to maintain focus in tough situations," Stephenson said.
With two outs in the seventh, MLB.com's No. 41 overall prospect surrendered a two-run homer on his final pitch of the night -- a fastball. Both runs were unearned after Rio Ruiz reached on an error by first baseman Seth Mejias-Brean.
"I talked to my pitching coach [Tony Fossas] after the game and he said with a runner on first it was the right pitch, but with a runner on second I should have probably thrown an off-speed pitch," Stephenson said.
The California native lasted 3 2/3 innings in his previous start, his first after missing a month due to a pulled left hamstring he suffered while running sprints. But he'd thrown at least six innings in each of his six prior starts, going 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA and 50 strikeouts against only five walks over 38 2/3 innings.
"I guess the best way to explain [that stretch] would be just getting ahead in counts. And when all my pitches were working, that's when things would go smoothly," Stephenson said.
Since returning, the 27th overall pick in the 2011 Draft has allowed five unearned runs and four hits in 10 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and three walks. He boasts a 2.57 ERA that ranks fifth in the Midwest League and is aiming for continued success -- possibly at a higher level.
"I haven't heard anything, but I hope if I can keep it up, I can be promoted," he said.
Trailing, 2-0, Dayton scored four times in the eighth as Jesse Winker -- Cincinnati's 10th-ranked prospect -- came through with a go-ahead two-run single. Mejias-Brean capped the rally with an RBI single.
The comeback made a winner of Alejandro Chacin (3-3), who recorded just one out. Kyle McMyne picked up his third save, striking out three and giving up one run on one hit in the ninth.
River Bandits starter Jordan Jankowski gave up four hits and struck out six over seven scoreless innings.