The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game of Thrones
Yasiel Puig had a star-crossed tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to be quite honest. After flashing the potential to be a world-beating superstar, hamstring injuries and the lack of backing up that early promise led many to deem his tenure in LA a disappointment, which was never more on display than when he was used as the centerpiece of the deal with the Cincinnati Reds this last winter that was hell-bent on just dumping whatever they could of the remnants of Homer Bailey, of all players.
Well, Puig greeted his former club with an early dagger and impressive return on Monday, socking a 2-run dinger as part of a 2 for 4 night, taking Clayton Kershaw deep in his first trip to the plate on the night.
If there are two things we know to be sure, they are these: Yasiel Puig performs on the big stage, and the Reds are desperate to finally, finally be good enough to win enough games to have games on a big stage. Let’s just hope this is the first of many more of those kinds of chances - and performances - even if the game ended in some walk-off heartbreak.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Robert Stephenson, who fired an electric pair of late, important, high-leverage, perfect, prospect-status-confirming innings of relief (with 2 K), Luis Castillo, who held the high powered Dodgers offense to just 2 ER in his 5 IP (albeit with issues...more on that in a bit); and Matt Kemp, who dumped an RBI dinker of a single into RF in the Top of the 9th that would’ve been the game-winner except for things.
- The Reds jumped out to a quick start against Clayton Kershaw in his season debut, and did so in crowd-pleasing fashion. Eugenio Suarez poked a 1-out single in the Top of the 1st, and after Yasiel Puig got a rather nice ovation and doffed his helmet in appreciation, Puig jacked a 2-run thunderdinger off the Dodgers ace to put the Reds ahead early, 2-0.
- Of course, the Dodgers and their thumptastic offense got a run back immediately, as Joc Pederson led off the Bottom of the 1st with a walk - and it haunted. A Justin Turner single and Cody Bellinger ground-rule double later, and the Reds were up just 2-1.
- The score remained the same until Jimmy Page decided his solo was over, which came when Castillo again ran into control issues in the Bottom of the 5th. A single and fielder’s choice opened the inning, and that was followed by a single from Turner, a walk to load the bases by Alex Verdugo, and a bases loaded walk to A.J. Pollock that forced in the tying run. Castillo managed to wriggle out of the bases loaded jam after that, but the game was tied, 2-2.
- The Top of the 9th was an odd one. Curt Casali led off with a near-dinger off the wall in RF that ended up as a double, but after that Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen looked like an unhittable demon on the mound for his next few batters. Fortunately, Kemp managed to jam-shot a single into shallow RF to allow Casali to score - after he had tagged and moved to 3B on a deep fly-out off the bat of Puig - and the Reds held a 3-2 lead that looked good on paper.
- On paper is a damn flimsy way of saying things quickly went to shit. Raisel Iglesias came on and promptly walked David Freese to open the Bottom of the 9th, and then threw a chest-hit meatball to Joc Pederson that was turned around for a massive 2-run, walk-off dinger that left the Reds on the wrong side of the scoreboard once again. Damn. Reds lost, 4-3.
- Castillo’s night was effective enough on the bottom line, and even featured some of his potent high-powered stuff. That said, his command was off almost all night, and he and catcher Curt Casali often seemed as if they weren’t quite on the same page. Wildness - 5 BB and a HBP of Cody Bellinger that ultimately led to the star Dodger’s early exit - and a resultant high pitch count - 98 through just 5 IP - made this easily his worst start of the season, but he still managed to allow just 4 H along with 7 K. It’s pretty safe to say that if that’s the kind of ‘bad’ outing we see from Castillo this year, it’s going to be a damn special 2019 for La Piedra.
- It was Jackie Robinson Day across MLB, and the Reds got the privilege of playing Jackie’s former Dodgers club on the evening, which was super special. It was a packed house of over 50K there to see it, too.
- David Bell stacked his lineup both with righties and with former Dodgers in this one, in part due to ace lefty Clayton Kershaw making his season debut and, presumably, to get his plethora of guys that came up in the LA system a chance to face their former club. I’m cool with that.
- In that featured Curt Casali hitting leadoff, marking the first time since 1900 that the Reds have rolled out a catcher hitting leadoff to start the game. I do appreciate the hell out of David Bell being willing to put a box over his head, think, and say fuck that.
- Tuesday’s contest between these two will feature Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda on the mound to start for their respective clubs. First pitch is again set for 10:10 PM ET, so steal a nap at lunch and join us again for some #LateNightReds.