Three words summed up Cincinnati Reds hitting coach Alan Zinter’s feelings after the two-game sweep by the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series last season: “That was quick.”
The Braves shut out the Reds 1-0 and 5-0, ending the first winning season for the Reds since 2013.
“The first game, we had almost 10 opportunities to score runs,” Zinter said. “It’s the beautiful thing about baseball. In that first inning, first and third, nobody out, Joey (Votto) hits a hard ground ball right at the first baseman. (Eugenio) Suarez hits one right the shortstop. No excuses, but can you imagine if they were just a few more feet this way or a little blooper over shortstop? We’ve got three runs in the first inning. Things can change in a heartbeat in this game. That’s what’s awesome about this game, but it didn’t happen for us.
“Then we got exposed that second game, and we were done. I liked how we were moving towards the end of that year. Two quick games, it is what it is and it sucked, but it also gave us that taste and we’re very hungry now. These guys are are proud men. They’re very determined. I’m looking forward to these guys coming in and taking care of business.”
The Reds hit .212 last season. That was the lowest season average in franchise history, though they only played 60 games in the pandemic-shortened season. Two years ago, in baseball’s last full season, they hit .244. Through 10 games in the Cactus League in spring training this year, the Reds are hitting .247.
Zinter enters his second season with a better understanding of the Reds hitters and focused on improving the offense as a whole.
“We went through a lot of things last year as a team, and we were able to start trending in the right direction and get into the playoffs,” Zinter said. “Then it was over abruptly. So it gave us a chance to reflect. Where could we have been better? What happened? It gave us a chance to look at it objectively. And It was a really cool process.”
Zinter learned Reds batters did some good things but struggled with quality of contact. When they put the ball in play, they hit it into the air too much. He has focused on getting the hitters to swing down through the ball.
The Reds ranked fourth in the league in home runs (90) last season and sixth in strikeouts (534). They tied for the league lead in walks (239) but ranked 13th in on-base percentage (.312).
“We’re still trying to hit the ball very hard and walk and get on base,” Zinter said. “We walked. We had great swing decisions last year. But our guys never scored. We were missing a variety of hits. We didn’t really work in that spectrum of where the high hit probability is. We hit a lot of home runs when we were on, but when we did miss it, we were in the air too much. So we’re trying to bring down that that focus a little bit so we open up that spectrum.”
NOTES: The Reds placed Votto on the injured list Wednesday after he tested positive for COVID-19.
“I think he’s handling it as well as possible,” manager David Bell said. “No surprise there. We’re hopeful just not only for his health but even from a baseball standpoint, he can get back here as quick as he can. He was feeling very good about where he was.”
About the Author