Cincinnati Reds: 5 takeaways from the first three games

David Bell interview (April 4, 2021)

Offense ranks among baseball’s best in first days of season

The Cincinnati Reds remain undefeated when the temperature tops 40 degrees.

Two beautiful days for baseball at Great American Ball Park followed a chilly Opening Day, and the Reds bounced back from an 11-6 loss to win the season-opening series against the Cardinals with a 9-6 victory Saturday and a 12-1 victory Sunday.

“Our guys are used to having to turn the page and move on to the next series,” Reds manager David Bell said Sunday, “but it’s OK to think about this series and appreciate it and feel really good about it.”

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The Reds won their first series for the first time since 2017 when they took two out of three games from the Philadelphia Phillies. That team won seven of its first nine games but still finished April with a losing record (11-13). The Reds haven’t had a winning record through April since 2013 (15-13).

It’s too early to say whether two victories against the Cardinals will lead to more success for the Reds, who play three games at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates this week in the second series. It’s a good start and nothing more, but here are three takeaways from the first three games.

1. The offense is hot

The Reds scored 27 runs in their first three games and rank second in baseball in runs per game (9.0). The Kansas City Royals scored one more run in their first three games. The Reds rank fifth in baseball with a .291 average. Last season, they ranked last with a .212 average.

“We obviously have a long way to go,” Bell said, “but I do think the way our offense is attacking, the type of at-bats we’re having, the confidence that is being built, it is important. It does confirm a lot of the work, and it’s nice to see the results. Our guys worked so hard last year, and the results didn’t show up. So when it does happen, a lot of good things can be built on the momentum and the confidence.

“So it is important even though it’s only three games. It’s a good team we played, and to get a couple wins and have the offense be a big part of it, it really couldn’t have gone any better.”

Nick Castellanos, of the Reds, is introduced on Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Nick Castellanos, of the Reds, is introduced on Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

2. Nick Castellanos is hotter than anyone

Castellanos started his second season as the Reds right fielder by hitting .545 (6 for 11) in the first three games. He hit a two-run home run Thursday and a three-run home run Sunday.

Castellanos said he has seen “more energy throughout the stadium, more energy in the dugout and more energy amongst ourselves.”

3. Jonathan India is building on his spring success

The rookie didn’t disappoint in the first games of his career after winning the starting second baseman job in spring training. He went 2-for-4 as he made his big-league debut Thursday and hit .455 (5-for-11) in the first series.

“I’m definitely taking it all in right now,” India said. “A good series win for the team. An opening-weekend series that was all-around good team baseball. We hit well. We’re a dangerous team.”

Jonathan India interview (April 1, 2021)

4. The reserves produced at the plate

Aristides Aquino took over in right field when Castellanos was ejected for his role in a bench-clearing incident and hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season.

After Tucker Barnhart started the first two games at catcher, Tyler Stephenson started Sunday and went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

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Tyler Naquin earned his first start Saturday in center field and had a two-run single. He started again Sunday, this time in left field, and hit a three-run home run.

Naquin, who signed a minor league contract with the Reds in February, spent the last five seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

“I came south all the way to Cincinnati, and I couldn’t be happier to be here,” Naquin said. “This club, this staff and everyone has been extremely good to me already. It’s still early in this relationship, but I’m excited to be here and play for this team and this city. There are a lot of good dudes on this team that make it fun, and it makes the transition a lot easier.”

5. Two of the first three starting pitchers delivered

After Luis Castillo experienced the worst start of his career (eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings Thursday), the starting pitching improved in two straight games.

Tyler Mahle allowed two earned runs in five innings. Jeff Hoffman, making his first appearance for the Reds, allowed one earned run on five hits Sunday.

“Hoffman just continues to build his confidence,” Bell said Sunday. “He’s really comfortable. He loves being a part of this team. He had some good starts in spring training, but today was really good. That’s a great sign: to be at your best when the season starts. It was a really good quality start against a good team.”

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