Reds take 1st loss of '22, but don't go quietly

3 takeaways from clash with reigning WS champ Braves

April 9th, 2022

ATLANTA -- They couldn't quite pull off the comeback, but the Reds will want to remember a few things from Friday's 7-6 defeat against the Braves at Truist Park. Cincinnati trailed, 7-0, through three innings, but it wound up having the potential winning run at the plate in the top of the ninth inning.

Here are three keys from the game, beginning with the down side:

Sanmartin struggled to throw strikes
Rookie lefty starter Reiver Sanmartin lasted only 2 1/3 innings and was charged with five runs, four hits and five walks with two strikeouts. With a first-pitch temperature of 46 degrees on a blustery evening, Sanmartin never felt comfortable on the mound.

"I couldn’t really feel the ball. I have to keep working at it and move on," Sanmartin said via translator Jorge Merlos. 

During his two late-season big league starts in 2021 vs. the Pirates and his two Spring Training appearances last month, Sanmartin demonstrated command of his pitches and deception. None of that was on display vs. the Braves.

Sanmartin escaped a first-inning jam with a double play and clapped into his glove as he walked off. He seemed a different pitcher in the bottom of the second, as he walked his first two batters on a combined nine pitches. A bouncer to third base was mishandled by Mike Moustakas and ruled an RBI single.

Another walk opened what would be a five-run third inning, followed by two hits that included an RBI double by Adam Duvall. Nine batters came to the plate against Sanmartin and reliever Jeff Hoffman in the frame.

"He lost track of the strike zone a little bit," Reds manager David Bell said. "He was trying to get a feel out there. Trying to get a feel with his hands, trying to keep them warm. We were trying different things between innings to take him inside, take him into the batting cage. It just got him off track a little bit and he was not able to lock it back in on the strike zone. And he relies on that a lot. Typically, he’s going to throw a lot of strikes."

Big bullpen debuts
The comeback attempt would not have been possible without some great relief work to hold Atlanta in check. In particular, Daniel Duarte and Alexis Diaz were stellar in their Major League debuts. Buck Farmer also delivered during his Reds debut. The trio combined for six strikeouts, as they each threw one inning.

Duarte opened the bottom of the sixth inning with a called strikeout of Ozzie Albies on a 96.6 mph fastball.

"I was feeling a little bit nervous, to be honest," Duarte said. "But after my first pitch, it just released everything. After that, I just felt more confident and got good results."

Diaz, the younger brother of Mets closer Edwin Díaz, opened the seventh inning by striking out Duvall with a slider. Eddie Rosario grounded out and Travis d'Arnaud struck out on a cutter.

"It’s a wonderful experience," Diaz said via Merlos' translation. "It’s an unbelievable experience to play here at the Major League level. I actually felt pretty relaxed. It felt like any other game in the Major Leagues."

Both Duarte and Diaz had their families at the game. Each reliever received their first strikeout ball and a lineup card as keepsakes.

Farmer, the former Tigers reliever, earned his roster spot in camp with five scoreless innings and continued to be tough in the eighth inning against Atlanta.

"We get down, you're looking for an opportunity to get them in the game, get the first one out of the way," Bell said.

Senzel solid
Having a healthy and productive Nick Senzel in the lineup daily would be an all-around boost for the Reds after three injury-filled seasons.

For the second out in the second inning, Senzel ran in and made a nice sliding catch to take a hit away from Albies. It was originally ruled a trap play, but it was overturned on a replay challenge by Bell. To end the third inning, Senzel made a great running catch at the wall on a deep drive off the bat of Matt Olson. According to Statcast, it had a 50 percent catch probability, as Senzel ran 92 feet.

"He's playing great," Bell said. "He's anticipating, he's covering a ton of ground, making great plays. It's so nice to have Nick out on the field and he's impacting the game in all areas already."