CINCINNATI -- Opening Day in Redsland comes with great anticipation. It’s the official start of spring and the unofficial holiday on the local calendar.
There’s the Findlay Market Parade. There’s a rolling party on The Banks. There’s the pomp and circumstance on the field before the game.
GALLERY: Photos from Monday's game
But the game doesn’t always live up to the pregame. It looked that way until the ninth inning Monday.
Then with two outs, Scooter Gennett, the newest Red, hit a two-run opposite-field homer. It was suddenly a one-run game and what was left of the regular-season record crowd 43,864 at Great American Ball Park was in a frenzy.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 3, 2017
That ended moments later with a Billy Hamilton flyout. A 4-3 loss to Philadelphia Phillies is not a lot better than 4-1 loss, of course. But when you’re a team like the Reds — young and devoid of high expectations — not rolling over and losing quietly is a good sign and a payoff for the fans who stuck it out on a rainy day.
“It was great,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We had to put up with a little bit of weather. For a while, it was miserable. But they hung there and they got a really good finish — unfortunately not a great finish - but they saw a really good push at the end.”
The ninth is why they got Gennett, a waiver-wire pickup from Milwaukee. He adds pop off the bench.
“He said he really likes hitting here,” Price said. “We didn’t know that when we made the claim. That situation there - he drives the ball out to left-center - it was an impressive at-bat. He’s going to help us.”
Gennett was born in Cincinnati and lived here until he was 9. He even attended an Opening Day when he 6 or so.
“I remember Schottzie, Marge (Schott’s) dog,” he said.
Gennett would have been a lot happier if the home run had won it.
“It’s about winning,” Gennett said. “I can’t say I’m happy right now. But it’s crazy how some things work out. My first home run here. My first game as a Red here. It’s special. I had 25 family members at the stadium.”
Here are nine takeaways from Opening Day 2017:
ROCKY START: Scott Feldman, the free-agent right-hander, took the loss. Feldman was signed as a fourth starter and ended up starting on Opening Day due to injuries on the staff.
The game could not have started much worse for Feldman. He got ahead of Cesar Hernandez 0-2 with a couple of fastballs and just missed getting a called Strike 3. But the count eventually evened. Feldman went with a 91-mph fastball. Hernandez drove it into the seats in right to make it 1-0.
“I had him 0-2 and let him back all the way to 3-2,” Feldman said. “That’s an example of not finishing guys off. I let the pitch count get too high. I’ve got to be more aggressive and keep the pitch count down.”
Feldman seemed to get the inning under control with a double-play ball. But Maikel Franco singled and Michael Saunders drove one to left-center that missed going out by a foot. Franco just beat Zack Cozart’s relay throw, and it was 2-0.
Feldman gave up a solo shot to the eighth hitter, Freddy Galvis, in the second. It was another fastball — 90 mph in the hitting zone.
The ball flies out of GABP at times, but Feldman said that wasn’t the case Monday.
“Those balls were hit well,” he said. “You’ve got to make your pitches anywhere you’re at. I had a few where I got in some bad counts and didn’t throw what I needed to.”
But he settled down after that. He ended up going 4 2/3 innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out six.
Not a great outing. But he did avoid disaster after that rocky start.
“That was a game that could have gotten away,” Price said. “Everything kind of falls apart. The next thing you know it’s a 7-0 ballgame. I hate to say playing it out, but it really limits the expectation that you’re going to get back in the game.
“He didn’t do that.”
CS, BARNHART: The one area the Reds won’t miss Devin Mesoraco is throwing. Tucker Barnhart threw a bullet in the third inning to cut down Howie Kendrick stealing second. Barnhart threw out 27 percent of would-be base-stealers last year.
He won the Gold Glove for all of the minor leagues in 2011.
SF, HAMILTON: Billy Hamilton didn’t waste any time when he came up in the third with bases loaded. He jumped on the first pitch and gave it a ride to right. It was right at Saunders, but it got a run in as a sacrifice fly.
RAIN CAME: The game started in 68-degree, dry weather. But the rain came in the fourth inning. It started as a drizzle and steadily picked up.
But play was never stopped. The rain was over by the sixth.
So once gain, the fretting over the weather leading up to the game was so much wasted energy.
SLICK PLAY: Third baseman Eugenio Suarez made a fine play in the fifth, barehanding Jeremy Hellickson’s slow roller on the wet grass and throwing him out.
Suarez knew the pitcher was running and took his time to make a sure throw.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 3, 2017
NOT-SO SLICK PLAY: Right fielder Scott Schebler tried to make a diving catch on Hellickson’s line drive to right in the sixth with Galvis on second. Bad move. The ball skipped past Schebler and went to the wall. It was scored a triple and made it a 4-1 game.
LOADED QUESTION: The Reds loaded the bases with no outs in the third and with one out in the fourth. They came away with one run — on Hamilton’s sac fly.
“Hellickson is a good pitcher,” Price said. “He knows how to get the ground ball when he needs it. We had some opportunities. I think we have a really nice-looking lineup. There will be days when we take advantage of it.”
ASTIN DEBUT: Right-hander Barrett Astin made his major league debut Monday — and wiggled out of a sticky situation. Astin took over for Feldman with two outs in the fifth and runners on first and second. He got a ground ball that should have ended the inning, but Cozart booted it.
Astin came back and got Saunders to ground to first on a 3-1 pitch to leave the bases loaded.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with him coming in and get some early contact and get us out of the jam,” Barnhart said.
Astin, 25, came to the Reds in the Jonathan Broxton trade with Milwaukee on Aug. 31, 2014. He went 9-3 with a 2.26 ERA at Double-A Pensacola last year in 37 games (11 starts). He would have led the Southern League in ERA but he was 12 innings short of qualifying.
TOUGH BREAK: In the seventh, Gennett hit a screaming liner in his first at-bat as a Red. The problem was it was right at first baseman Tommy Joseph. Joseph was standing right next to Barnhart. It was an easy 3-unassisted double play.
The killer for the Reds was Hamilton followed with a triple.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.