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Reds rookie Stephenson faces Mets ace deGrom

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds started a rookie pitcher in six consecutive games before Homer Bailey's outing Wednesday night.

The rebuilding Reds will once again send a rookie to the mound on Thursday when right-hander Robert Stephenson starts the finale of a three-game series against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park.

In the previous six starts, Reds rookies combined to go 2-2 with a 3.23 ERA, walking 14 and striking out 37 in 30 2/3 innings.

"We're obviously a young group," Stephenson said. "We want to keep improving as a group. Obviously, we want to win championships together."

One of those six starts was made by Stephenson (2-4, 5.81 ERA). He allowed two runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings on Friday, registering a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 9-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He struck out the first six batters he faced, a modern club record.

"My slider, I probably got most of the strikeouts on that," Stephenson said. "Couple good splits, couple curveballs that I was happy with because it's been coming along lately."

Stephenson doesn't turn 25 until February. He will make his 20th appearance and sixth start of the season on Thursday afternoon. It will be Stephenson's second career appearance and start against the Mets. He faced them on Sept. 5, 2016, and allowed two earned runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings in a 5-0 New York win.

On Thursday, Stephenson will face a depleted Mets lineup minus injured starters Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright and Michael Conforto. However, New York will send its ace to the hill, right-hander Jacob deGrom.

DeGrom (14-7, 3.39 ERA) allowed one run over 7 2/3 innings in his start on Friday, a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals.

He struck out 10, giving him 201 K's for the season in 172 2/3 innings. It is the second time deGrom has surpassed the 200-strikeout plateau in his career. He enters the Thursday afternoon contest needing four strikeouts to equal his career high of 205 set in 2015.

"He just grinds out innings for you," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You've got to have somebody who's going to eat up some innings, and Jake's been that guy this year."

DeGrom has induced 396 swings and misses on his pitches through 26 starts this season, the fourth-highest total in the major leagues. Only Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Chris Archer had more through Tuesday.

DeGrom has faced Cincinnati (56-77) once in his career, almost two seasons ago. On Sept. 27, 2015, he allowed one earned run through six innings in an 8-1 Mets win at Great American Ball Park. He struck out nine and did not walk a batter.

The Mets (58-74) had their franchise-record, 14-game winning streak against Cincinnati snapped on Tuesday night, but they rebounded with a 2-0 win on Wednesday behind 8 1/3 strong innings from Rafael Montero.

New York is 12-3 in its past 15 games in Cincinnati. The Mets have won nine of their past 10 games at Great American Ball Park.

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