The opening series is in the books. The Reds are 1 – 2 after three close contests against the Cardinals, a series which saw lots of great pitching, some memorable plays, and lots of rain. News, notes, and observations are below.
Opening Day Festivities
Opening Day was a great experience even if I was not in Cincinnati in to participate live and in person. We had around 30 people in The Union, and cheese coneys were quite popular as everyone wanted to have a little Cincinnati flair. It wasn’t an overly exciting game, so the “ooooooooohs” and “aaaaaaaaaahs” and loud celebratory claps were few and far between. As the kitchen was slammed and I typically only have one employee working at a time, I found myself in the kitchen more often than I had hoped, taking order, running food, doing the dishes, and helping plate some food from time to time. Hey, I love my Reds, but I wasn’t going to leave my employee hanging, and I wanted to make sure the food got out quickly and looking as best as possible. Gratuitous plug: If you ever find yourself in Huntington, WV, stop by 1125 4th Ave and get a bite to eat.
For the parts I got to see of the game, it was apparent that Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright had a nice little pitcher’s duel. I missed the home run by Yadier Molina—the game’s only run—but caught the replay as I came out of the kitchen. It was a pitch that Cueto left up in the zone and Molina took advantage. Other than that, there was not much offense. Patrons (and friends) around me turned on Billy Hamilton as he struck out four times in four at-bats. I’ll talk about that more later in the column. Overall, everyone was glad to have baseball back, and we were all looking forward to a great Reds season.
The Opening Series
The Reds and Cardinals had plenty of pitching and not much offense over the first two games. Molina’s aforementioned homer in game one was the only run scored, and the Reds had a walk-off single for the only run in the second game. Tony Cingrani and Michael Wacha continued the pitching duel between the two teams and both young pitchers impressed mightily. The two clubs had the lowest ERAs and batting averages against around the league after they played those first two games. Strikeouts were plentiful, and lots of batters ended up hitless to start the season. The Reds even set a franchise record by starting the season scoreless through their first 17 innings.
Game three had many more highlights and a lot more offense, as the Reds lost 7 – 6. Jay Bruce opened up the scoring with a monster home run, and Todd Frazier followed with an even longer shot for a 3 – 0 lead after one inning. Homer Bailey was not on point for the day, and the Cards eventually put up seven runs on him and the bullpen. Frazier smacked a three run shot late in the game to make it 7 – 6, but the Reds couldn’t get any more runs across and finished at that score.
Billy Hamilton struggled out of the gate and ended up 0 – 12 with six strikeouts and a walk for this series. Even after the first game, fans online were saying that he should have stayed in AAA or that he was not the player we thought he was. That’s a big heaping pile of bull crap and the epitome of an overreaction. Sadly, you see that often in today’s social media environment; fans are passionate about their teams and vent their frustrations for all to see. They want their team to win every game, and they can be impatient. Often, we overvalue our players in our minds and start licking our chops at how we believe these players will perform. If it doesn’t happen right away,” the sky is falling and it is all _______’s fault!” I am guilty of it, too from time to time.
Hamilton obviously has the potential to be a very dynamic player, but expectations may have been set too high for him by the fans. He is a rookie and is getting his first glimpse of the big leagues (other than some pinch running situations and a handful of at-vats late last year), and he is starting in center field and leading off. It has been three games, people; give the man some time and a couple of weeks under his belt.
Something that seemed obvious to me was that the Cardinals found out he was susceptible to sinkers or breaking balls low in the zone, and that is where they tried to keep pitching to him. It worked. I believe that Hamilton will string together a few hits and build some confidence, and he will settle in as acceptable to our fans.
How about that play where Matt Holliday hit the ball to top of the wall, just over the outstretched glove of a flying Hamilton, only for Bruce to dive and catch the ball off the carom? At first, I thought Hamilton might have hit the ball with his glove, but that first replay confirmed it hit the wall. Great effort by both guys.
Yes, I dislike the Cardinals (doesn’t everyone?), and always have. However, I now have another level of dislike for Matt Adams, their first baseman. Not only did he pick up several hits (and most against the shift that I loathe), but he also pushed one of our fans. If you missed it, Adams made an attempt on a foul ball that went into the stands. The fan that caught the ball did not reach over or touch Adams at all. He held his glove straight up and caught the ball. Adams then pushed the fan with his glove, and the fan later responded by flipping him the bird on live television. I didn’t like the gesture by our fan, but there is no excuse for what Adams did. Hopefully he gets a lifetime suspension and the Cardinals are forced to forfeit every game he has played. I guess I will settle for an undisclosed fine and/or a one game suspension, though.
Cingrani looked amazing on the mound for the Reds. The announcers kept talking about how he is basically a one-pitch pitcher, but that fastball is so good that he has great success without having to work in many off-speed pitches. Cingrani finished with 7.0 innings, 2 hits, and 2 walks while striking out 9 batters. He was ringing up the Ks and worked his way out of the only jam he got himself in. An amazing stat that the announcers passed along was that Cingrani is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to have 19 straight starts with allowing only five or fewer hits. Though that is impressive in and of itself, it is even more impressive to note that Cingrani has done that in his first 19 starts as a major leaguer!
After an 0 – 4 start with game one, Joey Votto went 2 – 3 in game two and 3 – 4 in game three. He has also walked twice, giving him an OBP of .538. Just as I will not condemn Hamilton for not performing in three games, I will not overreact to Votto having a good couple of games. I think we can all agree that the Reds need Votto hot right away to help their offense, though. When Votto is on fire, everyone around him sees better pitches.
Speaking of on fire, Frazier has had a great start. He struggled at times last year, so hopefully he can keep it up. The Reds need a good season out of Frazier.
Zack Cozart had an absolutely huge catch in the eighth inning of the second game, making a diving play in shallow center field to save a run. Cozart also laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the ninth to put runners in scoring position, setting up the intentional walk to load the bases and the Chris Heisey walk-off single.
Having three major closers/setup men on the DL is not helping the Reds right now. It’s not that the bullpen has pitched badly at all, but the club would definitely have some more experienced options. Trevor Bell is the only one that truly struggled, but his current ERA is “infinity,” so. . .
The Reds travel to New York to face the Mets for a three game series. Game one is tonight at 7:10pm. GO REDS!