Skip all the pandemic talk. Skip all the political talk. Pretty much skip anything else in this chaotic world right now because baseball is back to restore a tiny bit of normalcy into our lives.
The Cincinnati Reds opened up in front of their home crowd for the 144th opening day as the Detorit Tigers came to town, finally launching this much-anticipated (yet much-delayed) 2020 season. Despite all the uncertainty of possibly seeing baseball at all, the Reds handed the Tigers a 7-1 beating as Sonny Gray led the charge.
Gray, a 2019 NL All-Star, surprised some when he was announced as the opening day starter about a week ago by manager David Bell. Turns out, it was the perfect move. Gray seized the opportunity and mowed down the Detroit offense for nine strikeouts, many of which (looking at you Niko Goodrum) the hitters weren’t even close to making contact.
Sonny shined bright, going 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. His only real mistake of the game was actually a nice pitch, a low and inside fastball which C.J. Cron still hit into next week. Other than that, he looked much like the dominant pitcher from last year, extending his streak of 6 hits or less allowed to 34 games (active MLB record).
I’m giving a little too much credit to Sonny, though he was great, but so was the offense. It’s easy to pitch that way when your offense spots ‘ya five runs when you know your pitching against the worst offense in the MLB from last season. All the offensive players the Reds invested a lot of money into during the offseason scored runs on opening day. Mike Moustakas stole the show with his 3-4 (1 HR, 1 2B, 4 RBI) performance. He even flashed the leather, going Brandon Philips-esque (I’m hyping it) with a diving grab and throw to nab the runner at first.
What impressed me the most though was something that wasn’t as flashy. Shogo Akiyama came on to pinch-hit for Philip Ervin later in the game with runners on first and second. His first swing in the MLB? He came out of his shoes trying to make the Cincinnati fans fall in love with him with one swing of the bat. He then took another strike, shortened up his swing and ripped a single up the middle to score Freddy Galvis. In his very first professional at-bat, we saw him transition from trying to hit a monster home run, to settling for the RBI single. I know it’s only one at-bat, but that’s extremely encouraging to see from a rookie.
By the way going off the “it’s only one at-bat” thing, has Joey Votto re-found his power? The home run he hit in the fifth inning was an absolute shot, not the typical Joey Votto wall scrapers we’ve seen the last couple seasons. He got around on the pitch so quickly and sent it so deep that it reminded me of the Votto of old. I’m trying not to let one game excite me too much, but if Votto can return to form, along with the other threats in the line up, everyone needs to watch out.
I’ll keep this piece short and sweet, it’s been awhile and I’m tired. Luis Castillo takes the mound for game two of the season as he’ll square off against the crafty vet, Ivan Nova. First pitch is at 5:10pm.
I didn’t do any prediction articles before the season simply because of all the uncertainty if there’d even be a season (and if there was, what would the playoffs look like) so I’m going to randomly drop that here right now.
Predicting records in a 60 game season is anyone’s guess, so I’ll just tell you what’ll happen. The Cincinnati Reds will be the 2020 National League Central Champions. If, and this is a BIG if, if Joey Votto plays at an MVP-caliber level again, the Reds will win the pennant. You heard it here first… or maybe not first, but you heard it here.