Reds hope lineup change helps Suarez break out of slump

Veteran infielder hits first in the order for first time in his career

The Cincinnati Reds’ lineup included a surprise Tuesday: Eugenio Suarez in the leadoff spot.

Suarez had started at least 20 games at every other position in the lineup in his career but had never started a game at the top of the order. The Reds (21-25) used four other players — Jesse Winker, Tyler Naquin, Nick Senzel and Alex Blandino — in the leadoff spot in the first 45 games.

Suarez also has the worst batting average (.150) and on-base percentage (.228) of any everyday player in the big leagues.

“Really, it’s just to help Geno,” manager David Bell said before the game. “We’re just doing anything we can to mix it up a little bit. It’s really just a matter of time before he gets going. I do think it can help give a different look and just change things up, kind of change the focus of how he can help our team win the game.”

Suarez hit a home run in the sixth inning to help the Reds beat the Washington Nationals 2-1 on the road in the series opener. He struck out in his other three at-bats. He ranks second in baseball with 65 strikeouts.

For Suarez, the move to the leadoff spot did not make a big difference, other than he thought he would get five at-bats and he got four as normal.

“You’ve got to be ready earlier because you’re the first hitter in the game,” Suarez said. “My mentality, my approach, everything else was the same.”

The Reds led 1-0 thanks to a home run by Kyle Farmer in the third when Suarez stepped to the plate in the sixth against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who was 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in his last five starts against the Reds. In those five starts, Scherzer had allowed one home run, and that was hit by Suarez on Aug. 2, 2018.

This time, Suarez knew he needed to make an adjustment after striking out in his first two at-bats.

“He missed that changeup right in my strike zone, and I was ready to hit it,” Suarez said. “I go out every day to compete, and that was my opportunity.”

The Reds put Suarez in the leadoff spot again Wednesday for the second game of the series. Bell said he would let the change play out, the hope being it helps Suarez break out a season-long slump. Bell told Suarez about the change in person when the team was traveling Monday.

“Geno is definitely one to be ready to do whatever he can to help us win,” Bell said. “His response was, ‘I’m looking forward to the challenge.’”

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