Reds notes: Players experienced ‘constant stress’ during pandemic season

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Tucker Barnhart interview (Oct. 2, 2020)

The Cincinnati Reds played exactly 100 games fewer in 2020 than they played in 2019. Two playoff games followed a 60-game season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The shortest season in baseball history ended quickly for the Reds, who failed to score a run in the best-of-three wild-card series against the Atlanta Braves. They lost a memorable game 1-0 in 13 innings Wednesday. They lost a forgettable game 5-0 on Thursday.

Just like that, the Reds returned to normal life, if there is such a thing in 2020. A season of COVID-19 tests, a season spent in a bubble of sorts, ended at Truist Park. For players with kids at home, there was a silver lining in that, even if their bigger goal was playing for another month and winning the World Series.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart explained how difficult it was playing this season in his postgame press conference.

“Personally, my wife had to be tested every single time she would go home and we would go on the road and come back just to make sure she was clear,” Barnhart said. “Every time you go on the road, you never know when you’re going to see your family next just because of things outside your control. It’s difficult. I had a son born at the end of July, at the beginning of the season, so I was away from them for roughly 4 1/2 weeks after he was born so he could get all of his checkups. Then we were nervous bringing him back over to Cincinnati not knowing what was going to happen with the season. So it’s constant stress of being able to be around your family and wondering if it was safe enough for your family to be there.”

The COVID-19 outbreaks with the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals increased the anxiety for all teams.

“We didn’t know if we were going to be next,” Barnhart said. “Then we had a scare early in the year. I sent my family home right away just so they were safe. Again it’s one of those situations where you don’t know when you’re going to see your family again. It seemed day in and day out, I was always worried.”

Barnhart described the season as “extremely stressful” but was also proud of what the Reds accomplished in ending a six-year streak of losing seasons by finishing 31-29 and advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2013.

“I think this group going through what we went through both on and off the field and getting here to this point, it’s all positive for us,” Barnhart said.

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Lineup changes: Catcher Curt Casali, who usually catches when Luis Castillo starts, did not start Thursday because he was dealing with a sore wrist.

Barnhart started at catcher and hit ninth. Left fielder Shogo Akiyama also moved into the lineup and hit first. Center fielder Nick Senzel, who led off the first game, moved to seventh in the order. Freddy Galvis hit eighth and replaced Kyle Farmer, the Game 1 starter, at shortstop.

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Great game: The Reds and Braves set a postseason record with 37 strikeouts in Game 1.

“That was insane,” reliever Lucas Sims said. “That was one of the greatest pitching duels from both sides that I’m sure a lot of people have ever seen.”

Reds pitchers set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a postseason game (21). The previous record of 16 was set in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in 2012 against the San Francisco Giants.

Reds batters set a franchise postseason record with 16 strikeouts. The previous record of 15 was set in Game 3 of the 1975 National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Reds also set a franchise postseason record by leaving 13 runners on base.

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