Choo does his part, but bats stifled as Reds fall in 13
Collects two of club's three hits; Cueto, 'pen stellar before late blip
CINCINNATI -- The Reds had it all designed in the offseason. Shin-Soo Choo was acquired in a trade to get on base and create chances for the rest of their lineup.
The part where Choo needed to reach base worked great. It's the getting him home -- the most important of the two parts -- that lacked in a big way during the Reds' 3-1 loss to the Angels in 13 innings on Monday's Opening Day. Choo reached base three times and had two of Cincinnati's three hits. But he only scored once -- on a wild pitch play that still had negative consequences.
Scoring was tough to come by for both teams. The Reds were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men. The Angels left 12 men on base.
"We lose and we can't point at anybody," said Choo, who came over from Cleveland in December. "It's bad for everybody. We won and everybody did a good job. Not [only] one guy is doing a good job or not. That's my opinion."
A 4-hour, 45-minute duel that made Opening Day stretch into Opening Night, was ultimately decided by Chris Iannetta, who drove in all three runs for the Angels. It was the first time the Reds played extras in the opener since 1990, and first time in a home opener since 1988.
Reds reliever J.J. Hoover, who earned his way on to the roster with a fantastic spring, masterfully escaped after having a runner on third base during a scoreless 12th, but he could not add another zero in the 13th.
Hoover walked Josh Hamilton with one out and intentionally walked Howie Kendrick with two outs. On a 1-2 pitch, he hit Hank Conger -- the Angels' final available bench player -- to load the bases.
That brought up Iannetta, who scorched a full-count pitch past third baseman Todd Frazier for a two-run single to left field.
"I kind of put myself in that situation when I hit Conger with that slider," Hoover said. "I was trying to go back foot. I yanked it a little bit. Then Iannetta worked me to a full count, and he got me. I'm happy with that [12th] inning, but when it all comes down to it, I didn't do my job in the second inning. That kind of makes it a little bitter."
So did the loss of Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who separated his right shoulder going from first base to third base as Choo scored on Angels ace Jered Weaver's wild pitch.
"It's sort of disheartening," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Overall on a frigid day where temperatures dipped into the 30s after the sunset, both teams featured fantastic pitching. The Reds' staff notched a club Opening Day record 17 strikeouts. Ace Johnny Cueto was responsible for nine of those strikeouts as he gave up one run and three hits over seven innings.
Cueto retired 10 of his first 11 batters, with the only glitch being a critical one. In the top of the third, with one out, Iannetta launched his 0-1 pitch into the left-field seats for a 1-0 Angels lead.
"We had opportunities, guys in scoring position. We couldn't get the hit early," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But Cueto threw a great game. We didn't get too many looks at him, we struck out ... 17 times, so that says something about the level of the guys they brought out. I mean Cueto, [Jonathan] Broxton and [Aroldis] Chapman, they're all terrific. But the way you beat good pitching is you have to pitch with it, and we were able to do that tonight."
Weaver gave up only one run over six innings, and it came on a close call. Choo led off with a double to the left-field corner and went to third base on Brandon Phillips' groundout. Ludwick followed with a walk. On Weaver's wild pitch to Jay Bruce, Choo came home and slid with his foot touching the plate to narrowly beat the pitcher's tag while covering.
"I got a late jump. I can't stop and I still kept going," Choo said. "As soon as the catcher tossed to Jered Weaver, I thought I was out. I saw my foot on home plate, barely touched, I knew it was safe."
Following Choo's single in the eighth, the Reds did not notch another hit. The single to right field off Garrett Richards put runners on first and third with no outs. Baker ordered Phillips to sacrifice bunt to move Choo to second base. Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases. Chris Heisey struck out against Richards before Jay Bruce struck out for the third time on the day while facing lefty Sean Burnett.
Baker defended calling on the sacrifice play from Phillips.
"We couldn't take a chance on a double play," Baker said. "If Brandon has one fault, kind of, it's hitting the ball into a double play, because he hits the ball hard on the ground."
The game ended for the Reds, fittingly, with a runner stuck on second base. Ernesto Frieri notched the save by getting Bruce's fourth strikeout -- looking at a 95-mph fastball.
"It was a tough day for both of us," Baker said. "Both sides had a bunch of strikeouts. We had opportunities. That was plaguing us early last year and especially this spring -- the runner on third, less than two outs. It seems like it's all over baseball, not only us.
"We just have to get better at putting the ball in play. There are those that say strikeouts aren't important, but they're important if you're trying to play winning baseball."