Reds give fans something to feel good about, even short-handed

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

CINCINNATI — Not all of the Reds were available on Opening Day, but they still showed all the things they hope to be able to do this season.

There was a great start from Frankie Montas, who shut out the Washington Nationals for six innings in his first start since joining the Reds as a free agent over the winter.

Cincinnati also had a strong finish, getting two scoreless innings from Brent Suter after Emilio Pagan was touched for two runs in the seventh.

Defense was on display early when Jake Fraley threw out former Red Jesse Winker trying to stretch a single into a double to end the first inning, and these Reds still have speed as Fraley, Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer all had stolen bases.

Power? Nick Martini, a surprise sub at designated hitter after injuries robbed the lineup of center fielder TJ Friedl and infielders Matt McLain and Noelvi Marte, supplied plenty of that.

The 33-year-old journeyman who hit eight home runs in his first 141 major-league games socked two Thursday, a moon shot into the sun deck in the second inning and a line drive over the right field wall in the third that had Great American Ball Park rocking and the Reds leading 7-0.

“Nick is a big part of our team,” manager David Bell said. “He’s gonna play a lot, but all 26 players on our team — it takes everyone. We like playing that way. That’s how we see it, but to get through the end, it absolutely takes 26-plus, and over the next couple of days we’ll try to get everybody involved in the game and get settled into the season.”

To make it a truly Cincinnati story, there was even some hometown heroism.

Protecting a six-run lead might not have been a major task, but Suter was up to it nonetheless.

In his first Opening Day in his hometown, the Moeller High School grad was all smiles in the postgame interview room with his 5-year-old son, Liam, too, so everyone got to go home happy from the 44,030 fans to the television reporters in need of more content to fill the gap to game two of the season Saturday.

“I had a bunch of people out here, and it was really special,” said the 33-year-old Suter, who spent seven years with the Milwaukee Brewers before pitching for Colorado last season and joining the Reds in January.

“My phone is just absolutely blowing up, so it’s really good stuff.”

Opening Day is always one for optimism in Cincinnati, even when the Reds aren’t expected to do much.

A surprising 82-80 finish last season has fans hungry for more, though, and the winter signings of Montas, Pagan, fellow pitcher Nick Martinez and infielder Jeimer Candelario provided more reason to believe they can win a wide-open NL Central.

Late spring provided some discouragement, though.

When the team announced Wednesday that McLain would miss extended time following shoulder surgery, there was a feeling of, “What’s next?”

Marte, the team’s top prospect last season after McLain and De La Cruz were called up, already was shelved for 80 games after testing positive for a banned substance, and next top prospect Edwin Arroyo is out for the season with a shoulder injury of his own.

Friedl went down with a wrist injury two weeks ago, but he could be back sooner than later, as is the case with starting pitcher Nick Lodolo (shoulder).

Regardless, how can anyone worry about anything when the home team wins on Opening Day, something that had only happened in front of a crowd once since 2016?

“The energy in this ballclub is so special, in the city,” Suter said. “I think the city’s buying into it. I could see it happening last year when we came in with the Rockies, and it’s just a really fun time to be a Reds fan and a really fun time to be a Cincinnati sports fan, so we got to keep going.”

Baseball seasons are always long. The question is how long they are good.

Thursday the Reds started 1-0 and gave fans more reasons to expect a fun summer, especially if they can get closer to whole sooner than later.

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