Thursday, April 3, 2014

Series 1 recap: Relive Opening Day; Soggy Reds drop two of three to rival Cardinals

Baseball is back and as you well know, no one does Opening Day like the Cincinnati Reds. writer Kostya Kennedy knows this as well and shares his view on the internet, summing it up perfectly with his last line, "Make Opening Day a holiday? In some places, it already is."

Just look at this photo from redsbaseball on Instagram. People in Cincinnati love their baseball and they have a freaking parade to prove it.

On Monday, fans lined the streets to ring in a new baseball year, and then they (43,134 of them to be exact) filled the seats in Great American Ball Park to watch their beloved Reds take on their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Game 1 of 162 did not provide much excitement for fans eager to see the Reds kick off the Bryan Price era with a bang. To the contrary, they received a pitcher's duel between two of the finest hurlers in the game today in Reds ace Johnny Cueto and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Many baseball fans (myself included) would argue it was a fantastic game, which unfortunately had to end in a 1-0 loss for the Reds. 

Billy Hamilton picked up a golden sombrero with four strikeouts, and not even the great Joey Votto could muster a hit. Though there were no runs scored, it wasn't all bad. Brandon Phillips reached base three times, with a single and two walks, while Todd Frazier collected two singles and stole a base.

Cueto was phenomenal however, throwing seven innings of one-run baseball with eight strikeouts. His only mistake ended up in the left field seats after Yadier Molina launched what turned out to be a game-winning solo home run in the seventh inning.

It's just one game though, so put the loss behind you and enjoy the masterful performance of Mr. Cueto.

Game 2 of 162 pitted two young up-and-coming pitchers against each other as Reds lefty Tony Cingrani was opposed by Cardinals righty Michael Wacha. Mother Nature had other plans though as she rained the game into a two-hour and 40-minute delay. The wait was well worth it as the Reds put an end to their season-opening 17-inning scoreless streak to win 1-0 in a walkoff.

Once baseball finally got underway, it was clear that we were in the midst of another pitcher's duel as the two young bucks, Cingrani and Wacha, mowed down hitters left and right. Cingrani allowed just two hits, while Wacha allowed three in his outing. Cingrani finished the night with seven scoreless innings, striking out nine and walking just two in the process.

Hamilton continued his rough start to the season, posting another 0-for-4 night, though he struck out just once, so that was a plus. Votto went all milestone and collected his 1,000th career hit with a first-inning double, finishing 2-for-3 on the night. Ryan Ludwick took a pitch on the hand, but remained in the game and picked up two singles. He also scored the winning run.

Winning run, you say? Walkoff you say? With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Heisey stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter and then this happened:

We can't forget about the heroics of Zack Cozart in the eighth inning though. Matt Carpenter hit a ball that sank as it went over second base and towards the outfield and Cozart laid out to make the catch and save a run. It looked a little something like this:

J.J. Hoover got the win as the Reds were able to avenge their Opening Day loss, with thoughts of taking the series on Thursday.

Game 3 of 162 was a crazy game. It was much more eventful than the first two combined. It once again fell victim to the rain delay. This time it was a cool three hours and 42 minutes. Once the game did start, the Reds didn't waste any time getting on the board. Votto did what Votto does and reached base on a double in the bottom of the first. Then birthday boy, Jay Bruce mashed a 449-foot, two-run home run into the stands in right field. Not to be outdone, Frazier made it back-to-back by absolutely crushing a homer to right field which traveled an estimated 474 feet and gave the Reds a 3-0 lead.

Jhonny Peralta of the Cardinals had similar ideas however as he too blasted a two-run shot to put the score at 3-2.

An odd situation developed in the bottom of the 3rd inning as Heisey fouled a ball toward the stands along the first base line. Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams laid into the stands attempting to catch the ball as a first-row fan gloved the ball for himself. Adams gave the fan a little shove in the chest with his glove, and then the fan flipped him the bird on live tv. It was quite the show. See for yourself, thanks to vine user Chris Looy:

Then it got weird again in the seventh inning. Apparently, the phone between the dugout and bullpen was down, so Bryan Price had to go out and tell Votto to tell Phillips to tell Hamilton to tell the bullpen to get Logan Ondrusek up and warming. For what it's worth, Phillips also appeared to make the "you have no marbles" gesture from Major League II.

It didn't stop there. Matt Holliday then hit a ball deep to centerfield which Hamilton nearly caught, but instead had ricochet off his glove and into the glove of a diving Bruce or so we thought. The play was reviewed by the umpires and the ball was found to have bounced off the wall, thus making it a long, long single. It looked like a three-run home run in reality, but the Reds caught a break, before the Cardinals went on to score three total runs in the inning to give them a 7-3 lead.

Frazier would do his best to keep the Reds in the game by sending a three-run homer, or BlakeBomb, over the wall in the bottom of the seventh. It was his second home run of the game. It would not be enough though, as Frazier flied out to left to end the game with a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals.

Homer Bailey took the loss giving up four earned runs in 4.1 innings. It was not the type of performance we had hoped to see from the new $100 million man, but I suspect he will get better.

What we learned in this series
+Patience is a virtue. The Hamilton experiment is going to take some time. After striking out four times on Monday, Hamilton laid down a couple unsuccessful bunts on Wednesday. He finally drew a walk on Thursday raising his OBP to a lofty .077 for the season. He might be feeling the pressure to perform and might be pressing a little. Hopefully he can settle in and play like we hope he can.

It took 17 innings for the Reds to score their first run of the season, but it seemed to loosen things up a bit, considering the Reds offensive performance on Thursday. Through those first 17 innings though, the patience of every Reds fan was certainly tried.

+Also, the Reds still retain their strong starting pitching, even with Bronson Arroyo gone and Mat Latos on the disabled list and despite Bailey's outing. Cueto and Cingrani turned in marvelous pitching performances, providing the Reds with a chance to win the first two games, one of which they did. Bailey did not look great, but he also had a near four-hour rain delay to deal with before the game started, so with it being this early in the season, I think it's safe to just erase that one from our memory banks and look forward to his next start.

+Lastly, the Reds and Cards are still bitter rivals. There were three one-run games, including back-to-back 1-0 games, with one walkoff win to start off the season. What more could you ask for other than a couple more Reds wins? This team is not going away easily, although many fans on Twitter might try to convince you otherwise, and I expect to see them have several more tightly contested division games against the Cardinals which will be pivotal in deciding the division crown.

Tweet of the Series

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