The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Luis Castillo finished his 2018 season by posting a stellar 2.63 ERA over his final 14 starts, and it was that - not his rough Cactus League outings - that led the Cincinnati Reds to the decision to start him on Opening Day. Castillo, to his credit, rewarded the Reds with a damn fine outing on Thursday.
Castillo got 17 outs for the Reds, exiting after 5.2 IP having not yet allowed a runner to cross the plate. Of course, he exited because he’d allowed a 2-out single, and that run eventually scored to dent his ledger a bit, but overall he looked in control with some excellent, excellent stuff. He struck out 8, allowed 2 hits, and walked 3 (though one was a bit dubious after an iffy foul call on what would’ve been a swinging strike on a 3-2 count), and had his devastating change-up working almost all day long.
If that’s the Castillo the Reds get every five days this year, we’re all going to be very, very happy campers.
Super-Special Honorable Mention goes to Derek Dietrich, whose pinch-hit 3-run blast put the Reds ahead for good.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Jose Peraza, who singled and dingered; Jose Iglesias, who doubled in a run and tacked on another double later; and Jose Jose, who isn’t a real MLB player but would probably be a good one, too, if the Reds signed him.
- Peraza poked a sinking liner into LF off Jameson Taillon for a 1-out single in the Bottom of the 2nd, and his double-play buddy Iglesias followed with a towering RBI double off the wall in LF. Reds led, 1-0.
- Things fell apart in the Top of the 6th, however. Castillo’s day ended when Josh Bell dumped a soft 2-out single into RF, with Jared Hughes taking over after that. WELCOME TO THE FUN WORLD OF PITCHING CHANGE DECISIONS, DAVID BELL! Hughes eschewed his spotless 2018 season immediately, unfortunately, as both Francisco Cervellie and Jung Ho Kang followed with singles, the latter of which plated a pair of runs when Jesse Winker took his time getting the ball back to 2B. I mean, Cervelli is slower than baking potatoes, and he rolled all the way around to score. Dangit, team defense. Reds trailed, 2-1.
- Peraza picked that run back up in the Bottom of the 7th, clubbing a hanging Taillon meatwad over the wall in left-center for a solo shot that squared things at 2-2. Taillon later walked Tucker Barnhart and allowed a double right down the 3B to Iglesias before exiting with runners on 2B & 3B with none out, and that brought righty Richard Rodriguez in from the bullpen. In hindsight, I’m guessing Clint Hurdle wishes he’d gone to a lefty, as Rodriguez served up a meatball to the lefty-swinging Dietrich, who promptly launched a 3-run hoo-ha over the RF wall to put the Reds back in front, 5-2.
- True to his word, Bell turned to Raisel Iglesias not for a 9th inning ‘closer’ role, but instead for the 8th inning to face the meat of the Pirates batting order. Great move - in theory. Iglesias’ homer tendencies from 2018 immediately continued, though, as Corey Dickerson took him deep for a solo shot to cut the lead to 5-3.
- Iggy battled through the rest of the 8th, returned to down the Pirates in the Top of the 9th, and promptly walked a pair to bring the go-ahead run at the plate. That was enough for Bell, who tasked Amir Garrett with getting out lefty Adam Frazier, which he did with a series of nasty, nasty sliders. Bell then called on David Hernandez, however, who proceeded to walk Pablo Reyes to load the bases for Dickerson...who finally, finally was retired on the 12th pitch of the at-bat on a grounder to 2B. Reds win, 5-3!
- After coming on as a pinch-runner in the 7th, Michael Lorenzen stayed in the game in CF. We heard that was going to happen, kinda sorta didn’t believe it was going to happen, and then saw it happen, so there’s that.
- Joe West was calling balls and strikes today. Boy, was he calling them. Called a lot of ‘em! Not sure he ever actually saw any of them, but mannnn did he call ‘em.
- Starling Marte was originally set to play for the Pirates today but was a late scratch with migraine symptoms.
- The Reds packed 44,049 fans into GABP today, the largest Opening Day crowd in ballpark history. Well done, Reds fans. Well done.
- After an off-day to clean up downtown Cincinnati and let your respective livers dry out, the Reds and Pirates will go back to work on Saturday. Game Two, of course, will feature a gaggle of Red Reporters fumbling around the RF seats, assuming the 100% chance of rain in the forecast doesn’t throw a gigantic middle finger at us all. First pitch is set for 2:10 PM ET, with Sonny Gray and Trevor Williams the scheduled starters. Fingers crossed that it’s sunny for Sonny.