The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
On a day that saw the Cincinnati Reds offense go completely verklempt, the one player who shined and shined brightly was Johnny Cueto, whose performance on the mound hopefully will go a long way to quash the memories of how his 2013 fizzled. Cueto was dominant as he changed speeds, hit spots, and pounded the strike zone to the detriment of the Cardinals lineup. Before the solo HR he allowed in the Top of the 7th, the only two hits he'd granted all game came courtesy of two lightly hit opposite field dinks from Matt Adams - both of which came against the newly instituted defensive shifts employed by the Reds.
In all, Cueto went 7 strong innings, and he yielded just a single run, a single walk, and three total hits, and he struck out eight Cardinals on just 97 pitches. If today's performance is any indication, Cueto is back and feeling well (he hit 95 mph late today), and that's much more important for the overall performance of the Reds than taking a 1-0 loss on Opening Day. That's your JNMHSotG.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Logan Ondrusek, who was brought in with 2 men on in the Top of the 8th to some consternation yet mopped up and finished with 1.1 IP of scoreless, 1 K ball; Brandon Phillips, who went 1 for 2 with a pair of walks (and a head-shaking baserunning blunder); and Todd Frazier, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and a nifty steal of 2B.
- The nature of a great pitchers' duel dictates that the less glorified aspects of baserunning and defense take on greater importance, and that was certainly true with Adam Wainwright and Cueto locked in today. The first such instance of this came in the Bottom of the 5th, when Brayan Pena hit a slicing liner to Left-Center that Peter Bourjos tracked down but had pop out of his glove. Pena ended up at 2B after the error, but bad a bad bunt by Cueto and even worse running from NERTS saw Pena out at 3B. The potential rally ended swiftly thereafter.
- In the Top of the 7th, Yadier Molina hit a hanging cutter from Cueto over the LF wall for a solo toilet flush. Reds trailed, 1-0.
- In the Bottom of the 8th, the Reds were again beneficiaries of poor Cardinals defense, but they ran themselves out of multiple bouts of good fortune yet again. A leadoff walk from Brandon Phillips got the drama started, and he moved to 3B on an airball error on a grounder from 2B Kolten Wong (that allowed Joey Votto to get to 1B). Jay Bruce followed with a slow chopper to 1B, but Phillips managed to get caught in a rundown between 3B and home and ultimately was timed out. Ryan Ludwick then swung at the first pitch thrown by Carlos Martinez and promptly grounded into what should've been a 4-6-3 inning ending double play, but Matt Adams dropped a perfect throw at 1B for what would've been out 3. Frazier then followed by striking out looking on 3 pitches from Martinez. That's a lot of work, gifts, and effort to score zero runs. The Reds went quietly in the Bottom of the 9th against Trevor Rosenthal, and that was that. Reds lose, 1-0.
- Billy Hamilton went 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts. As Joe Posnanski noted on Twitter, that's a feat that only happened 3 times in the entire 1950 season.
- The Reds went 0 for 7 with 9 men left on base today.
- Reds pitchers struck out 9 and walked just 2 today. Given the stuff on this staff (even with the injuries), don't be surprised to see them repeat as National League leaders in K's the way they did in 2013 (with 1296).
- Per ESPN, the last time the Reds were shut out on Opening Day was in 1953, a 2-0 defeat to the Milwaukee Braves. The manager of those Reds was legendary St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns player (and manager) Rogers Hornsby.
- This game, in many ways, was a perfect regular season metamorphosis (hi, crolfer!) of an offseason and preseason we all lamented. Hamilton struggled, there were questions in the bullpen, and the best bench bat left to hit with the game on the line in the 9th inning was a guy who hit .181 in 2013. Shake it off, though, because today's a perfect example of why they play 162 games and not 20. A day off and it's all gravy from here.
- Welcome back, Reds!