This is the first installment in what will be a weekly, season-long update on the state of the Cincinnati Reds. Since the Reds have only one game under their belts, certain sections of the Reds Preview/Review will be slightly different than usual this week.
Result: 5-2 win vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.
Record/Place in NL Central: 1-0/Tied for 1st. (Wire-to-Wire Part Deux, baby!)
Notable performances: Todd Frazier’s three-run thunderbolt into the upper deck of the left field stands in the bottom of the eighth inning ensured the red-clad patrons would go home with quite the Opening Day thrill. (Frazier punctuated the bomb with one hell of a bat flip and some delighted woofing to the Reds dugout.) … Johnny Cueto blanked the Pirates over seven innings, yielding four hits and striking out 10. … Frazier robbed Andrew McCutchen of extra bases—with an assist from Joey Votto at first—in the opening inning of the season.
Adjective that sums up Opening Day: Buoyant.
Notable quote: “Here, it’s like we already won the World Series,” Reds backup catcher Brayan Pena quipped after the game, referring the unique magnitude Opening Day holds in Cincinnati.
Notable season trends: It’s only been one game and I don’t want to be “that guy,” but Reds manager Bryan Price gets a failing grade in Bullpen Management 101 after Opening Day. Bringing in Kevin Gregg—a 37-year-old journeyman coming off elbow surgery who has never been considered an elite reliever—in the top of the eighth inning to nurse a 2-0 Reds lead and face a pinch-hitter (Andrew Lambo) and the top of the lineup appeared like a shaky move to begin with. Myself and the rest of the skeptics in the stadium were proven right when Gregg needed 13 pitches—and some nice defense by Billy Hamilton on a hard flyout—to retire Lambo, a reserve with a .246 average in 72 career plate appearances. Gregg then surrendered a single to Josh Harrison and a lineout to Gregory Polanco. Then, instead of pitching around McCutchen, a known Reds killer and all-around baseball badass, Gregg served up a 90 mph meatball over the heart of the plate, and Cutch deposited said meatball into the right-center field stands to level the score. Price will be better and Gregg will be better, but Monday’s eighth-inning disaster could have been avoided.
As the (Reds Lineup) World Turns: Joey Votto batted second Monday, which is exactly where the team’s best hitter should be placed. … Brandon Phillips batted seventh, which was also the right move and showed that Price has taken note of the second baseman’s declining offensive skills.
As the (Reds Leadership) World Turns: All quiet on the Leadership Narrative Front so far.
Reason for OPTIMISM/pessimism: The United States of America remains a democracy (sort of) and the Reds won in dramatic fashion on Opening Day. What’s not to love?
Who’s next?: After an off-day today, the Reds tango again with the Pirates Wednesday and Thursday before welcoming the Cardinals for a three-game set on Friday.
Adjective to sum up the week ahead: Captivating. (For baseball in April, that is.)
Notes from around the National League Central/Major League Baseball: If you, dear reader, remain uninformed about the Pirates after Opening Day, (shameless self-promotion forthcoming), I’ve got you covered with three previews: state of the franchise/offseason storylines, position players, and pitchers. … Cueto, a free agent after this season, and his agent established Opening Day as a deadline for a contract extension, and the two sides did not reach an agreement by Monday. Contract talks between the Reds and Cueto will reportedly not happen during the season. … Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was his usual awesome-in-a-big-game-self during Sunday’s Opening Night win over the Cubs. … Athletics starter Sonny Gray took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Oakland’s 8-0 victory over the Rangers. … Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, did his dominate-the-game thing in Seattle. … Hours before the Cubs and Cardinals opened the season Sunday night, the Braves continued their offseason fire sale by shipping all-world closer Craig Kimbrel and reserve outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. to the decidedly all-in Padres.