The Cincinnati Reds returned home on Monday without the man who has managed them since they made their last postseason appearance in 2013.
There was no sign of Bryan Price in his old office at Great American Ball Park. It had been cleaned out, with only a few old Reds photos decorating the space now occupied by interim manager Jim Riggleman. Price didn’t leave a winning legacy — most experts would say he never had a chance to compete in his four-plus seasons — but his players won’t forget him.
“Bryan was really the first guy who gave me a break in the big leagues, so I’ll be forever in debt to him for that,” said outfielder Scott Schebler. “A great human. I think everybody will say that. Anybody you talk to in this clubhouse really enjoyed being around him. I’m not sure he got a fair shake. We haven’t been playing good ball. That’s really not his fault. That’s just kind of the way the business is. I wish him the best. I don’t think he’ll be down for long. I think he’ll land on his feet. I really do. I hope he does.”
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One thing that hurt the Reds — and thus Price — in the first 18 games was the absence of Schebler. He missed 15 games after being hit on the pitch in the third game of the season.
Schebler returned from the disabled list Friday in St. Louis, the first game Riggleman managed, and made his first big impact since returning on Monday when he hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves. The Reds added five more runs an inning later and then three more in the eighth and won 10-4, improving baseball’s worst record to 4-18.
Schebler, batting lead-off for the first time this season, went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He hoped the offensive outburst would spark an offense that hadn’t hit a home run in eight days and a team that hadn’t held a lead for 50 innings until the sixth inning Monday.
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“It’s one of those things where the whole season it felt like we never had momentum,” Schebler said. “We were great offensively last year, and I full expect us to be like that the rest of the year.”
Starter Sal Romano provided another ray of hope in the series opener, allowing one earned run on four hits in six innings. His only big mistake was giving up a home run to Nick Markakis, who gave the Braves a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Romano lowered his ERA from 5.75 to 4.78 and picked up his first victory of the season.
“You take a win whenever you can get one,” Romano said. “Just today the way we pitched overall and how the bats came alive was really a huge step forward for us. Schebler’s home run really jump-started our offense.”
» PHOTOS: Reds beat Braves in series opener
Even with the victory, the Reds had their worst record through 22 games. Riggleman improved to 1-3 as interim manager.
“I was involved in a situation in Chicago many years ago where we got off to a horrendous start,” Riggleman said. “I’ve been through it. A great baseball man, Buddy Bell, went through that in Kansas City. I was able to say that to the players. We’ve been through it. We can handle this. You’ve got to handle it. The way to handle it is to get out of it. We’re going to get out of it. Our players are focused and will always be giving a great effort. The sooner the better, of course.”
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