The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
José De León had not taken a big league mound as a starting pitcher since the 2016 season, a year in which the then-touted Los Angeles Dodgers prospect was angling for a big time spot in that club’s burgeoning rotation. Of course, a trade to a promising Tampa club later ensued, but a series of injuries kept setting him back, ultimately sending him under the knife for Tommy John surgery.
When he landed with the Cincinnati Reds in an under-the-radar trade after the 2019 season, the hope was his arm would get a chance to round back into form under the tutelage of Derek Johnson and Kyle Boddy. His performances in Winter League ball after the 2020 season continued to show that regained velocity, and when he finally returned to a big league mound in a 1st inning on Monday, he sure as hell looked the part once more.
De León surrendered a pair of early dingers to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but immediately erased those from memory with a K-fest until he hit the showers. The end result - 5+ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K on 81 pitches - was pretty much exactly what we’d hope to see from him as he stepped in for a beat up Reds rotation, the kind of outing that makes you excited to see just where he’ll fit in once the rest of the Reds arms are back in action.
Hell, he even added the first big league hit of his career and a ribbie, to boot.
Congrats, José, and here’s to more big league starts like this one.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Mike Moustakas, who cranked his first mooseblast of the season (and later doubled & scored again); Nick Castellanos, who singled, walked, and socked a mammoth solo homer while appealing his bullshit suspension; Cionel Perez, who looked filthy in a perfect IP (with 2 K); Sean Doolittle, who fanned a pair in his perfect IP, too; and Lucas Sims, whose perfect IP from the bullpen is part of a trend I’m attempting to emphasize here.
- De León was working in his secondary stuff early in this one, and unfortunately that bit him in the Top of the 1st. Phillip Evans uncorked a solo blast over the CF wall on a sinker, and Colin Moran later poked a slider into the RF seats, too, a pair of solo blasts that put the Reds behind 2-0 to start.
- He got a run back for the Reds in the Bottom of the 2nd, however. After Nick Senzel coaxed a walk, he ended up on 2B via fielder’s choice after a fielder’s choice (and an overturn on review), putting him in scoring position for the Reds starter’s first career hit - a single past the 2B into shallow RF. Reds trailed, 2-1.
- Moose took it upon himself to level the score all by his damn self in the Bottom of the 5th, punishing a Pirate meatball for a 430 foot homer right down the RF line. ‘Twas a solo job, and it was 2-2.
- Speaking of solo jobs, Castellanos put the weight of his suspension into a golf-shot dinger in the Bottom of the 7th, a solo blast way over the wall in left-center to put the Reds ahead for the first time at 3-2.
- The Bottom of the 8th saw the Reds put an insurance run on the board, and it began with Moose’s leadoff double into RF. After Nick Senzel walked, Jonathan India smacked a single through a drawn-in infield to plate Moose, and the Reds held a 4-2 lead. Aristides Aquino then got in on the action with a double dumped down the LF line to plate Senzel, and the Reds held a 5-2 lead.
- Amir Garrett finally got in for a save opportunity in the Top of the 9th, and things got hairy quickly. Bryan Reynolds socked a solo dinger to open the inning, while Moran followed with a single to bring the tying run to the plate with nobody yet retired. Garrett, though, buckled right down and powered through it, and the Reds held on to a 5-3 win.
- Starting a season 3-1 is a lot more fun than starting it 1-4. Or 1-8. Or 3-18. Who knew?
- Eugenio Suarez made his 3rd error of the season. It’s been 4 games. Submitted without comment.
- Tuesday will see the season debut for Wade Miley, as he’ll be the starter for the Reds in Game 2 of the series against Pittsburgh. The Pirates, meanwhile, will counter with veteran Trevor Cahill, Miley’s former teammate with the Arizona Diamondbacks. First pitch is set for 6:40 PM ET.