Graham Ashcraft struck out six batters and allowed just one run in 7.0 innings in his first start of the year. That was needed as the offense only scored three runs, but two key home runs from Jason Vosler and TJ Friedl proved enough to seal an opening series win for the Cincinnati Reds over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Final R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates (1-2) 1 6 0
Cincinnati Reds (2-1) 3 9 0
W: Ashcraft (1-0) L: Velasquez (0-1) SV: Diaz (1)
Statcast | Box Score | Game Thread

There wasn’t a hit on the board until the bottom of the 2nd inning with one out. That’s when Jason Vosler took a 2-1 slider from Vince Velasquez and crushed it several rows deep into the seats in right field to put Cincinnati ahead 1-0.

The Reds went back to work the next inning when Jonathan India kicked things off with a 1-out single. He moved up a bag when Jake Fraley walked with two outs. That set the stage for Tyler Stephenson’s RBI single that deflected off of the glove of a sliding Oneil Cruz, extending the Cincinnati lead to 2-0. That run turned out to be key at the time as Bryan Reynolds followed led off the top of the 4th inning with just the second home run by a lefty off of Graham Ashcraft in his big league career, which cut the lead in half.

TJ Friedl would get that run back for the Reds in the bottom of the 5th inning when he turned on a 93 MPH fastball and sent it into the right field seats at 104.2 MPH for a solo homer as the lead was extended to 3-1.

Graham Ashcraft ran into some trouble in the top of the 6th when Andrew McCutchen, who has been a thorn in the Reds side this series, doubled with two outs. The big righty was able to get out of the jam with his 7th ground out of the game. An inning later and Ashcraft again was in a jam after a 2-out blooper fell in the grass just out of the reach of Jonathan India off of the bat of Connor Joe. He then moved up to second on a wild pitch to get into scoring position. Ashcraft battled Ji Hwan Bae for a 7-pitch at-bat, but ended the inning with yet another ground out to hold the score at 3-1.

That was it for Graham Ashcraft on the day as he allowed just one run over 7.0 innings with a walk and six strikeouts. He also kept the ball on the ground most of the day, picking up nine ground outs with just two fly outs during his 95-pitch outing.

In the bottom of the 7th inning the Reds threatened once again. Jonathan India blooped a soft liner just over the second baseman’s outstretched glove with one out and then moved up on a bunt single by TJ Friedl. After a ground out it was down to Tyler Stephenson and he did what he could – lined a ball at 102 MPH off the bat into right-center, but Andrew McCutchen made a running grab to end the inning.

Alex Young took over for Cincinnati int he 8th and he didn’t get much help from his defense. Rodolfo Castro singled on a ground ball that got by Spencer Steer and then Oneil Cruz blooped a single in between Kevin Newman and Jake Fraley that may have been caught had their communication been better. Bryan Reynolds flew out to the warning track, moving Castro up to third base before David Bell went to the bullpen to bring in Derek Law to face Andrew McCutchen. He fought the Law and the Law won (yes, I’ve been waiting to type that all spring), getting McCutchen to fly out to shallow right field for the second out of the inning. That brought lefty Carlos Santana to the plate and Law induced a ground out to first base to end the threat.

After making the final out of the top of the 8th inning, Jason Vosler doubled off of the top of the wall in right field to lead off the bottom of the frame. He would be stranded there, leading to Alexis Diaz coming out for the top of the 9th where he would try to hold on to a 3-1 lead. In his first save opportunity of the season, Diaz made quick and easy work of the Pirates with a 9-pitch perfect inning that closed with a strikeout.

The win gave Cincinnati a 2-1 series win and kept the team in first place in the National League Central division.

Key Moment of the Game

TJ Friedl’s home run in the 5th inning gave the Reds the tiniest amount of breathing room, extending their lead from 2-1 to 3-1.

Notes Worth Noting

Jonathan India reached base seven times in the 3-game series and is rocking a .455/.538/.818 line with two walks to begin the season.

Graham Ashcraft threw 7.0 innings in the Reds third game of the season. Last year…..

Up Next for the Cincinnati Reds

Chicago Cubs vs Cincinnati Reds

Monday April 3rd, 6:40pm ET

Drew Smyly vs. Connor Overton

76 Responses

  1. Melvin

    As I’ve said before, all things considered, there are times when Ashcraft looks like the best of the Big Three. It would seem that would be the case again today.

  2. LarkinPhillips

    Bull Krall looks like genius right now. Vosler, Newman, Law, Young. Only one not performing is Myers. Good opening series. Let’s beat thr cubbies now!

    • JayTheRed

      We are going to need to beat up the Cubs because the middle of April’s schedule is kinda scary.

  3. J

    Great pitching, and great win. Now the Reds need only win two of the next 22 games to remain ahead of last year’s pace. I think they can do it. I’m an optimist.

    • Melvin

      I think they can….I think they can. 😉

  4. Mark Moore

    Very fun game to watch. Some tense moments, but the boys knuckled down and won it. Ashcraft was very good today. Hoping that inspires the rest of the starting staff.

  5. Old-school

    Just a really good baseball game and win. Congrats to Reds players and coaches and FO and fans

    Great start to the season and much needed

    Go Reds

  6. VaRedsFan

    Who closes tomorrow if needed? I would say Gibaut.
    Here’s hoping for a blowout win for the good guys.

    • Harry Stoner

      Worth running Diaz two days in a row.

      Might not get 7 innings out of Cessa and Overton (combined).

      Bullpen could get some work.

      • JayTheRed

        I have a good feeling about Cessa. Overton I was hoping would have a better spring, but he did not seem very confident in pitching.

        Ashcraft must have heard us complaining about using too many pitches because he did a nice job per inning on keeping his pitch count down.

        I feel like Alex Young pitched in every game. Derek Law continues to do a nice job early on. I know it’s only 3 games into the season.

      • Dennis Westrick

        If Diaz pitches tomorrow, that would make three appearances in a row since Bell decided to use Diaz in the 9th inning of yesterday’s game with the Reds holding a 4 run lead

    • Dennis Westrick

      That’s exactly why I questioned Bell’s use of Diaz in the 9th inning of yesterday’s game with a 4 run lead

  7. Kevin H

    Question as I know its been discussed and Reds carry three catchers, however as of know Mallie hasn’t played in any games. Albeit 3 games in. I wonder would Reds send him to triple A and keep two catchers when Votto comes back?

    Benson and Myer as of now haven’t hit, however one would think they will soon.

    Great win today. Pitching was great and timely hitting.

    Now lets take two out of three from cubs and a Hunter Greene No hitter!!

    • Amarillo

      Maile has enough service time that he can refuse being sent to the minors. They wanted to keep 3 Catchers, because they are afraid of what happened last year at the Catching position happen again.

      • J

        I believe they want three catchers on the active roster because they want “flexibility” to play Stephenson regularly at first and DH without having to worry about situations where they might need him to switch to catcher in the middle of a game. They’re so worried about these situations, which might happen in a handful of games all year, they’ll ignore the dozens of games where it would be beneficial to have another position player who can run, hit, and/or play good defense. They’d rather have a third catcher who contributes almost nothing than a guy who could potentially contribute on a regular basis, because that ONE game when they’re really going to need a third catcher… they’ll be ready. It’s a special kind of cost/benefit analysis that only the Reds’ front office can understand.

      • MK

        I don’t think they were ever forced to play a game without a catcher last year. With a 13-man pitching staff, 3 catchers is not a luxury they can afford. They have an emergency catcher in Myers rho started his professional career as a catcher. He was even a minor league All Star catcher and could certainly give them a few innings if needed.

      • Melvin

        That’s right Mr. J. I agree. I don’t know if the Reds are the ONLY team that would do that but it’s kind of crazy nonetheless.

      • J

        I’m almost certain there was at least one game when they had to go without a DH because Stephenson switched from DH to catcher. And since the plan is to have him DH fairly regularly this year, they’re going to be ready for that weird situation no matter how little flexibility it gives them on a day-to-day basis.

      • Ryan

        The reigning WS winners are carrying 3 catchers if that makes anyone feel better. Tyler Stephenson’s injury history and zero AAA depth are very solid reasons to carry 3 catchers, especially on 26 man roster.

      • Melvin

        An argument could be made that the Reds don’t have as much talent as some other teams and can’t afford to have three catchers. Those other teams may not need as much help from their bench.

      • greenmtred

        Stevenson, don’t forget. is not only a catcher, so they are really only carrying two guys who only catch.

      • Tom Diesman

        I really dislike the Reds carrying 3 catchers. If Stephenson is a catcher, he should be catching. Every game Stephenson is in the lineup and not catching results in a weaker Reds offense since the backup catchers are lesser hitters than the 1B/DH that Stephenson replaces. Also, every game Stephenson is in the lineup and not catching takes developmental PAs away from younger players like Fairchild, Benson, Friedl, etc…… What good does it do maximizing Stephenson’s PA if it weakens the lineup and prevents us from seeing more of the players we need to get answers on in a season where we are still sorting? We don’t need any answers on Casali/Maile bats.

    • DW

      Plenty of teams carry three catchers. It is just as much of a strategy as it is a reaction to last year. It’s not like the Reds are the only team doing it.

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        Plenty? Which other teams are doing it?

      • J

        Every bad strategy is a strategy. Nobody is suggesting they chose players randomly. It’s a strategy. It’s just not a smart one if the object is winning games. After three games, they haven’t even considered using the third catcher, which is going to be the norm, but there were various situations where Bell’s options were constrained by the fact that they’re carrying three catchers. More days than not, this is going to be a cost and not a benefit.

      • DW

        Indians, Astros, Mariners, Cubs all carry three catchers at this time. I’m not saying I agree with the decision, just pointing out that the Reds aren’t the only team.

    • BK

      @Tom, you make a great point. Every game Stephenson is not catching it means Casali or Maile is in the lineup hitting. Personally, I think the Reds are willing to make the tradeoff this year.

      A couple of other points that I haven’t seen mentioned:

      Just a few seasons ago, teams had a 25-man roster. During that time, nearly every carried thirteen pitchers and twelve position players. In short, rosters looked a lot like the Reds currently do, but with only two catchers. So, teams have a really long track record of playing with similar bench construction to what the Reds (and several other teams) have elected to go with to accommodate a third catcher.

      Also, Stephenson is our BEST hitter. Keeping his bat in the lineup is paramount. Only a handful of catchers have managed over 100 starts over the last several years. The Reds need a creative approach to keep Stephenson in the lineup. Long-term, the Reds need another catcher who can also hit.

  8. DHud

    Before today Fraley had 115 ABs against LHP

    He also had an OPS+ of 118 last season. Stop pointing to small sample size to let the best OF on the team play.

  9. Melvin

    As a side note Votto just had a hard hit to right center field which he maybe wouldn’t have had last year in a shift. He then scored from 1B on a double so at least he’s got a “little bit” of wheels. 🙂

    • DaveCT

      Dude was absolutely chugging coming home from 3rd! I didn’t know if he’d make it.

      • MK

        Looked like he needed oxygen when he got to the dugout.

    • DaveCT

      In other news, McClain thrown out by so many feet trying to steal second, it was like Charlie Brown trying to steal home and and not even making it to home plate.

      In fairness, McClain looking pretty nice at short stop.

      • MBS

        McLain is also looking pretty good at the plate, 3 hits, a HR, and 3BB’s to start the year.

  10. MCT

    Hopefully Benson can start locking it in soon.

    • Doc

      If Benson, or any other player, had an ofer three game stretch anywhere during the middle of the season people would be far less likely to even notice much less freak out. I hope people will chill at least until May. By then players, except Maile, will be sniffing 100 PA, then let the comments begin.

  11. Bdh

    India, Stephenson, Fraley, and Steer are going to have big years. I’m very high on Friedl also.

    Who knows if Vosler and Newman continue hitting ball this hard but Myers, Barrero, and Benson will obviously have better series

    Adding a healthy Votto to that will be fun. Bringing up McLain, Elly, and CES this year will be as well

    • CI3J

      The only way I want EDLC, CES, and McClain brought up is if they will be playing almost every day. That means the Reds will have to trade some players away to make room. It would be nice if they could trade someone like Myers and Newman and get some B-Level prospects in return, like they did with Pham last year.

      I also wouldn’t be opposed to the Reds trading some prospects to get a young, MLB ready starting pitcher to pair with the Big 3.

      • DHud

        I agree, I think the reds end up trading some young talent for a high end young starter, but I think they’re probably a season away from doing so. Need to wait to see how EDLC, CES, Barrero, Steer, McClain, Marte and more sort themselves out, then make a move to improve the roster as a whole. Almost identical to when the Reds had Alonso blocked by Votto and Grandal blocked by Mesoraco and used them to acquire Latos prior to 2012, a season they were going for it

      • redfanorbust

        I am hoping that Reds don’t do any trading this year at all unless somehow they magically find themselves in a wild card hunt or Mets come a callin with a great offer for Diaz. Hoping for next year we get decent/good players with the money we save from Moustakas/Votto contracts coming off the books.

  12. Old-school

    Finished mowing the yard and thinking of the 3 headed catcher while mowing.

    TS caught HG and GA
    CC caught NL
    LM hasnt caught yet

    All 3 are RH
    Bell has said TS will catch 4 days Dh 3 and 1b 2

    Maile starts tomorrow with overton and Reds are going to personal catchers. It makes sense on off days and bullpens

    Maile paired with overton or his replacement and bullpen.
    Stephenson paired with greene and Ashcraft
    Casali paired with Lodolo and probably Cessa

    Reds are paying 3 catchers to be seargents to execute DJ plan and work with pitchers on off days and provide continuity

  13. Harry Stoner

    The Reds were 2-2 after four games last season before going on a 1-20 tear.

    This series was some fun baseball as many RLN folks have said.

    Greene-Lodolo-Ashcraft should make at least part of every week watchable.

    Fewer bullpen catastrophes will help.

    No more salary dumps for awhile, too.

    Poco a poco.

    One game at a time.

  14. JB WV

    Hate to do it, but give Pitt some credit on defense. Benson hit a laser that Santana snagged to save a run, McCutcheon took a double away from Stephenson that would have plated 2, and forget who made a diving grab that was reviewed that would have led to a run or two. Reds could have coasted in without those plays.

    • Bdh

      Joe in LF. Would’ve had bases loaded after the Friedl bunt single if he didn’t rob Newman to start the inning. I don’t remember what Fraley did that at bat but Stephenson’s fly ball that Cutch made the good play on would’ve at least brought one run in

  15. GreatRedLegsFan

    Does somebody know why Henry Ramos’ status is listed as “suspended” in Louisville?

  16. David

    In retrospect, the Reds lost Thursday because of too many walks. The pitching on Saturday and Sunday had many fewer walks. The Reds won those games.
    Is it that simple?

    Greene has a great arm, but he has to able to throw strikes on command. Many of his swinging strikes are not strikes, but he has to be able to throw a strike in the zone when needed. I am sure he was trying on Thursday, but he just did not have command of the zone. Maybe it was Opening Day jitters, maybe it was a little cold for him to be comfortable and loose, maybe something else.

    Throw strikes, win games. Too many walks, and you lose. Lodolo, Ashcraft and Greene all have good enough stuff to win in the Majors, but they have to command the strike zone. And this is also what is likely holding Williamson back at AAA ball.

    I think the Reds have enough “guns” to score runs this year, barring injuries, etc. If they can stay away from giving away runs (too many walks) to the opposition, they will be fine.

    • Doug Gray

      Almost every pitcher’s swinging strikes aren’t strikes. Big league hitters don’t swing and miss all that often on pitches in the zone. The key to strikeouts is having enough stuff to get guys to chase.

      What’s holding Williamson back is that he has absolutely no clue where the ball is going. He’s light years behind the other three guys when it comes to throwing the ball anywhere near the zone, and his stuff isn’t nearly as good either.

      • Rednat

        I am putting an asterisk next to India’s homer yesterday in the first inning.Big turning point in the series and for the fan base. We laid an egg opening day. The we are all depressed Friday for the off day. Then Saturday Pirates get a cheap run in the first inning and I’m thinking, here we go again. Another 3-22 start.

        India’s homer in the first seemed to settle the team Down. Lodolo found his groove and the reds outscored the Pirates 7-2 the rest of the series. We are 2-1. At least there is some hope we won’t lose 100 games again

      • MLT

        Spot on, Doug. I was at game two on Saturday and Williamson was spectacularly wild. He airmailed several pitches during his innings of work.

  17. MK

    Only 6 of 15 NL teams under .500 at this point.

  18. Redsvol

    I would like Krall to sign Ashcraft to an extension right now. Say 6 years, $65M. A shade below Spencer Strider’s contract.

    He may be the most likely of the big 3 to sign. Greene’s probably going to want superstar $ (which he should) and Lodolo might want to see where he winds up after a full year of starting. Either way, good problems to have.

    Onward to see how we fare with Cessa and Overton starting. Bullpen may get gassed.

    • Optimist

      Interesting idea, but doubt the 6/65 works for an Ashcraft deal. The Reds already control Ashcraft for 6 years – he’s FA in 2029, so they may be thinking why bother, or simply wait until he proves himself a bit more. Ashcraft likely thinking that’s cheap to get me to my age 31 season.

      I wonder if a shorter deal for more money, say 3/45, with mutual options above arb. amounts and extending a year or 2 beyond FA status may do it. It’s quite a bit in the bank now for Ashcraft, but not the $$$ and duration of a Bailey contract that the Reds may fear.

      Lodolo is identical age of Ashcraft so similar thinking there – Greene will certainly want more, as noted, since, among other issues, he’s 1 1/2 years younger.

      • DaveCT

        I’m thinking Greene will be LA bound the first second he can.

  19. Doc

    If the season ended today, the Reds would finish ahead of the Mariners. Just sayin……

  20. Hotto4Votto

    Nice to see the Reds get off to a solid start. Ashcraft is really really good. Love how he’s come out this year, just seems to be on the attack vs hitters. Now the real fun starts after the big 3 have had their turn. I hope Overton can find some of whatever worked for him last year in his brief stint before injury in a hurry.

  21. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Better start than last year. Still, it’s the Pirates. I’m happy for now. Will we be happy when we compete against the Cards? The Brewers? The Phillies? Etc.?

  22. Jeff Morris

    Great start by Ashcraft. Very nice. Wonder how far Senzel is away from being back, as this Will Benson doesn’t look like the answer. Like Drew Stubbs used to be, he may be good defensively, but can’t hit…..and looks like so far he will strike out a bunch.

    • CI3J

      I think it’s not wise to judge a player after just 3 games.

      If Benson still isn’t hitting around the middle of May, then maybe you’d have a case. But before then, it would be foolish to draw any conclusions.

      • Jim Walker

        I agree far too early to a definitive decision on Benson. This said, right now he is looking totally overmatched and out of place. Give him a week or so to get his feet under himself.

        However, if he continues to struggle like now, the best thing for him and the team may be to option him to AAA to clear his head and (hopefully) get into a groove so he can be brought back up and become a contributor.

        For the record, counting last year with the Guardians, Benson’s MLB BA/OBP/SLG/OPS line through 69PAs is .159/.221/.175/.395 which factors to an OPS+ of 17 with a 36% K rate and 4% BB rate. He has a lot of catching up to do.

    • TR

      I won’t rush to a negative offensive conclusion regarding Will Benson just yet. It can take time to adjust to a new team.

  23. A Former West Sider

    Spahn and Sain and pray for rain has become

    Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft, then go play some MineCraft???