Reds Fall to Pirates on Opening Day

Stuart Fairchild of the Reds gets tagged out by O'Neil Cruz of the Pirates
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pirates 5, Reds 4

Hunter Greene took the mound for the first time in the 2023 regular season on Thursday. Excitement surrounded Great American Ballpark well before first pitch on Thursday afternoon, though. Considered an official holiday in Cincinnati, the hometown Reds host a huge Opening Day block party every year. For the most part, that was the fun part of the day. The Reds went on to fall flat against the rival Pittsburgh Pirates and drop the first game of the year 5-4. Let’s break down the action from game one of 162.

Game Analysis

Early On

Hunter Greene looked fantastic to start the year, as he worked his way out of a two on, two out jam in the first. In the bottom half, the Reds loaded the bases with no outs, making it look like they were in for a huge inning early on. Cincinnati only managed to score one run, though, as the season’s first run came at the expense of a Tyler Stephenson ground-ball double play. Newcomer Jason Vosler popped out to end the inning. Greene began to dial it up in the second inning, surrendering only a bunt single while he calmly struck out the side. The Reds got another runner on in the home half, but as was the case for much of the day, they failed to capitalize on a baserunner.

The top of the third brought some issues with it for Hunter Greene. Leadoff hitter O’Neil Cruz hammered a home run to right-center field to kick off the inning. After getting Bryan Reynolds to ground out, Greene struggled with control. Despite the control issues, Greene tied the record for fastest pitch of the stat cast era, throwing a 105.2 mph fastball, which was also an Aroldis Chapman fastball recorded in 2016. Greene eventually got out of the inning after throwing 36 pitches.

To the Bullpen Early

After another quiet inning from the Reds, Greene returned to the mound. A Jack Suwinski strikeout, Greene’s eighth of the day, preceded a double by the speedy Ji Hwan Bae. Bae stole third, Austin Hedges subsequently walked, and David Bell decided to give Greene the hook. After hurling 83 pitches, Greene finished with a line of 3 1/3 innings pitched, three walks, and eight strikeouts, but the two runners on base were still his responsibility. Fernando Cruz came in relief of Hunter Greene, and it got ugly for the 31-year old reliever fairly quickly. He immediately walked Cruz and Reynolds, resulting in a run. He issued his third consecutive walk of the inning, bringing in another run. Cruz then uncorked a wild pitch that brought home the third run of the inning, making it 4-1 Pirates.

After getting a fielder’s choice out at home plate, Cruz’s day was mercifully over with. Bell brought in left-handed reliever Alex Young to face Canaan Smith-Njigba. Young struck him out to end the inning, but the Pirates had rallied for three runs, and didn’t have to lift the bat off their shoulder for much of the inning.

Hopes of a Comeback

The Reds needed to string together some hits and score some runs quickly, and that started in the fourth inning. Even though Mitch Keller struck out the side, it wasn’t before rookie Spencer Steer hit a 435-foot blast for the first Reds homer of the season. The comeback efforts carried over into the fifth inning as well. Jonathan India got the inning started with a walk, and Jake Fraley moved him over to third with a sharp single to right. TJ Friedl and Stephenson were both strikeout victims, bringing up Vosler with two runners on and two outs. Fraley attempted to steal second base, and Vosler lined a ball down the right field line. India scored easily and Fraley was hot on his tail to tie the game at four, and Vosler pulled into third with an RBI triple.

The next two batters in the Reds lineup subsequently walked to load the bases with two outs. Again the Reds had a huge opportunity to take the lead. And again Will Benson struck out, something the six through nine hitters of the lineup did very well, as they struck out a combined eight times. The strikeout was one of four on the day for Benson alone.

Walkoff Magic?

The next few innings went by without incident for either side, and we had a tie game going into the eighth. Buck Farmer replaced Derek Law in relief and faced the bottom of the Pirates order. Bae led off with a single and immediately stole second base. Austin Hedges made a superhuman effort to bunt him over to third, giving the Pirates a chance to take the lead with the top of their lineup due to hit. Farmer did a good job of pitching around Cruz until he inexplicably grooved a fastball. It was an obvious attempt at the “unintentional, intentional walk” to set up a double play. Nonetheless, Cruz flied to deep left to drive in the go-ahead run.

The Reds attempted to get their own rally going in the home half and did so effectively. After Spencer steer reached first on a fielder’s choice, Stuart Fairchild came in to pinch-run. With two strikes, the hit-and-run was on for Benson and Fairchild. Benson swung through the pitch and Fairchild was thrown out on a close play at second. Fairchild believed he was safe, and from the replay it looked like he was safe for sure, but the call was upheld and the Reds rally died. The Reds retired the side in the ninth and came up looking to walk it off in the home half. After Jose Barrero grounded out, India lined a double to the gap off Pirates closer David Bednar. The opportunity for a run had arisen for the Reds once again. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Friedl and Fraley struck out to leave India stranded. Bednar completed his first save of the year, and the Reds lost 5-4.

Conclusion

While it is only the first game, the Reds need to figure it out in the bullpen. They can’t give up three to four runs and expect to win ballgames. On the flip side, they can’t afford to leave so many runners in scoring position. Too many opportunities to score went by the wayside in the narrow loss to Pittsburgh. The best thing about baseball is that you get to play 162 times in order to make it right. The Reds will take the field again Saturday afternoon for the second of three games against the Pirates. Reds fans are hoping Game Two goes better than Game One.

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