Longtime Reds writer John Fay shares his 9 takeaways on the Reds' 6-2 Opening Day victory over the Phillies:
1. Quality Start
Raisel Iglesias might have been the Opening Day starter by default, but he pitched like he deserved it.
Iglesias went six innings and allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out seven and walked none. The runs he gave up came on Freddy Galvis’ two-run home run in the second. It was a Great American Ball Park special — a high flyball that went off the top of the wall in right. Jay Bruce very nearly robbed Galvis.
Iglesias pitched out of trouble all afternoon. The Phillies put the leadoff man on in the first, second, third and fifth. The Phillies were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
“I think anybody in that situation, especially in his first opening day getting a chance to take on that responsibility and not wanting to let the fans down,” Price said. “All of a sudden, Galvis hits the home run to give them a 2-1 lead, it’s kind of like ‘oh man.’
“I thought he handled that really well. He made big pitches and gave us six innings when at times it looked like it would be a challenge to get through four with his pitch count. He clutched up for us big time there and got us through six.”
2. A First
Iglesias became the first Reds pitcher to bat eighth on Opening Day. The previous 139 had all hit ninth.
Iglesias was in the ninth spot because Billy Hamilton was batting ninth. Why?
“The thing about Billy hitting eighth and the pitcher hitting behind him is, are we going to bunt the pitcher with nobody out?” Price said. You bunt the pitcher or do you try to have Billy steal the base?
“With one out, do you bunt the pitcher, or if you don’t, does the pitcher hit into a double play, you’ve lost the value of having Billy on first. Lastly, with two outs, if Billy gets caught stealing, then you’re leading off the next inning with the pitcher. There were varying degree of concern of difference scenarios with him hitting eighth.”
3. Cozart First
Cozart hit leadoff. Cozart is keeping the spot warm until Hamilton gets going.
Cozart isn’t an ideal leadoff hitter. He has a .284 career on-base percentage, and he came in hitting .222 with .264 OBP in 500 career plate appearances as the leadoff man.
But it worked Monday. Cozart doubled in his first at-bat and scored, singled in his second at-bat, doubled in third at-bat and then hit the sac fly.
Not a bad return after missing most of last year.
“I didn’t know what to expect after missing so much time,” Cozart said. “To have the adreline and everything, I felt great physically. Getting that first hit calmed me down. It’s the same game I’ve been playing forever. It’s just been a while since I played.”
Price thought the key to the eighth was Cozart’s sac fly.
“Bases-loaded situation, nobody out,” Price said. “The key guy is the guy who’s hitting with nobody out. If he doesn’t score the runner, the pressure amps up for the next hitter.
“That was one of the bigger at-bats of the day.”
4. Roster Move
The Reds put Homer Bailey on the disabled list before the game Monday and recalled Robert Stephenson, 23-year-old right-hander.
Stephenson will make his major league debut Thursday in the 12:35 p.m. game that wraps up the series with the Phillies. It’s probably a one-start deal for Stephenson. The Reds expect Anthony DeSclafani to be ready for the start against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Stephenson, the club’s top prospect, had a rough spring. He had a 9.58 ERA over four starts. He allowed 12 hits, seven walks and struck 11 in 10 innings.
His last start was his worst. He allowed five runs (four earned) in three innings. He walked five, including the first three batters of the game. He was sent out on March 18, then came the call Sunday.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Stephenson said. “A good surprise.”
5. Bunting Bruce
Bruce tried to beat the shift with a bunt in the fourth inning. He bunted a bit too hard, and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson threw him out easily.
Bruce worked on his bunting during spring training and had three bunts for base hits.
6. Near-Perfect Penmanship
Jumbo Diaz, Tony Cingrani, Ross Ohlendorf and J.J. Hoover combined to pitch the last three innings.
They allowed only one base-runner and no hits. Diaz started it by retiring all four batters he faced.
“It’s big -- not just for the victory today, but for these guys,” Price said. “The constant dialogue is: Can this bullpen hold together and be a strength of the ball club? We’ve got a lot of guys with new opportunities -- some guys from outside the organization that we brought in, as well as guys that pitched here in the past that are maybe pitching in different roles. I think it was a great start. Jumbo Diaz didn’t have a great spring training and kind of figured some things out at the very end that, I think, he took into today’s game.”
7. Holt On
Tyler Holt had quite a day after nearly not making the team. He scored the tying run on Cozart’s sac fly and made a diving catch to start the ninth.
Holt was brought back Sunday after being sent down.
“When we were shaking hands, he said ‘I told you I should be on this team,’” Price said. “(He’s) right. He doesn’t have to tell me twice.”
If Price didn’t pinch-run Holt for Duvall, Cozart’s ball is probably just an out.
“It makes a difference when you have a kid like Holt who can score on a medium-depth flyball.”
8. Meso OK
Devin Mesoraco caught all nine innings, despite the cold. Mesoraco, of course, missed most of last season with a hip injury.
“It was like riding a bike,” he said. “It felt like I didn’t miss any time.”
9. Way To Open
So much — probably too much — is made of Opening Day in Cincinnati. Still, it was a sweet win Monday.
“Everybody make such a big deal about Opening Day,” Bruce said. “It might be the least important game. But it’s nice to get the momentum going the right way, especially the way we won.
“To come back was great. It shows everyone we’re capable of coming back and stealing a game.’
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.