That dreadful feeling that many Cincinnati Reds fans had on Opening Day was quickly erased over the weekend as the Reds returned the favor on both Saturday and Sunday to take the series two games to one over St. Louis. Things really got rolling when Nick Castellanos scored on a wild pitch in Saturday’s game and got up screaming LET’S GO while standing over the Cardinals pitcher. The benches emptied and some tempers flared up, but Cincinnati never looked back from that point forward.
Three games into the season doesn’t tell us much. There’s a reason that baseball seasons are 162 games long – it takes a whole lot of baseball games to truly separate the good teams from the bad ones. Still, there were some things worth talking about from the opening series win over the Cardinals.
At least on Sunday, everything that the Reds said they saw from Jeff Hoffman when they acquired him showed up. His breaking stuff generated six swings-and-misses in five innings. His fastball got another five, and he added two more on a change up. His 13 swings-and-misses generated on Sunday were tied for the most in Major League Baseball for the day. The raw stuff shown by Hoffman was impressive. The lone run that he allowed came on a soft single by Yadier Molina.
“I’m want to win.”
“I care about winning ballgames. That’s pretty much it.”
Those are two quotes from Nick Castellanos after the game on Saturday. During the series it was Castellanos who put the Reds on his back. He went 6-11 with four extra-base hits, five RBI, and his OPS is 1.947.
But it wasn’t just what he did. It was how he did it. He brought the emotion, he brought the swagger.
Speaking of things that Nick Castellanos said over the weekend….
“I don’t know if I’m a leader. I (bleep) sure ain’t a follower. But that’s not for me to say, it’s for those guys to say what I am.”
They may not have expressly said it, but they certainly followed. Ashley Davis asked on Opening Day if Nick Castellanos was poised to have a big season in 2021 on the digital pages here at Redleg Nation. She looks like she can see the future through the first series of the year.
The guy hit in spring training. He is battling Alex Blandino for the best lettuce on the team. And in the first three games of the regular season he showed that he belonged. India went 5-11 with a double and made some nice defensive plays at second base. He looked poised and like he wasn’t pressing. His approach to each at-bat was patient and he didn’t seem to expand the zone much.
The offense as a whole
27 runs in three games will get it done. For an offense that struggled at so many different points in 2020 it seemed that nearly everything was going right in the first series of the year. When things are going your way, all feels right with the world.
It’s more fun when you win
As the article began – Opening Day was dreadful. It was 6-0 before the Reds even came to the plate and much of Redleg Nation was already thinking of ways to fire anyone and everyone who even applied for a job with the Cincinnati Reds at some point in their lifetime. But just as over-reactive those feelings on Opening Day were, the opposite feelings that were felt on Saturday and Sunday are probably over-reactive. But the feelings are much better, too – and it really helped that it took place against a big divisional rival instead of the Kansas City Royals.
Sal Romano is going to pitch in every game
So this isn’t actually going to happen, but it was an interesting thing to see. Sal Romano pitched in all three games in the series, giving up two runs in 4.2 innings with a walk and two strikeouts in the series.
At the end of spring training Sal Romano talked with the media about making the team. One of the things he noted was that he felt he was a different pitcher than he had been in the past. His slider was different than it used to be and he was looking forward to showing people just how different he was.
Small sample size of just three games, but the early returns are that the slider is indeed different. He didn’t pitch much for the Reds in 2020, but we can look back to 2019 when he threw 16.1 innings – still a small sample size, but more than the 1.1 he threw in 2020. The velocity of the slider is about the same. But he’s gotten 4.5 inches less “drop” on the pitch than he had in 2019, going from 38.6 inches to 34.1 inches. The amount of horizontal break is also quite different, going from 3.5 inches to 1.3 inches, giving it a little more cutting action. Just something worth keeping an eye on as the sample size grows.
Tejay Antone still brings the heat
After not pitching in the first two games of the season, David Bell called on Tejay Antone on Sunday. The right-handed pitcher threw the five fastest pitches of the game, topping out at 99.1 MPH. Interestingly, too, was that his spin rate was a bit higher in the game than his average was last season – though it can deviate a little bit from day to day.
Last season Tejay Antone averaged 95.6 MPH with his fastball. He topped out at 98.1 MPH and according to Baseball Savant only threw two pitches that were 98.0 or higher all season. Sunday afternoon saw him throw five pitches between 98.2 and 99.1 MPH. Will he reach triple digits at some point this season? As Samuel L. Jackson’s famous line in Jurassic Park goes: Hold onto your butts.