New year, new offense: Reds mash in victory

April 4th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Through two games, the Reds seem intent on letting everybody know that this is not their 2020 offense.

While hitting both home runs and soft singles, Cincinnati delivered a 9-6 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. The club has scored 15 runs while collecting 21 hits -- including four homers -- in their first two contests.

"Our offense has worked hard, just like we did last year," Reds manager David Bell said. "It's nice to see even though we're two games into the season, to see some results, success -- a lot of confidence can come from having success. Guys deserve it, earn it. I think we learned a lot about ourselves last year offensively.

"We knew that coming into this season, it was going to be a different year. I think we worked hard all winter and all spring, made any necessary adjustments and now we have to make them in the game, during the season and it's been a good start for two games -- and really from Spring Training [forward] and it's really carried into two games here."

Last season, the Reds were rightfully maligned for their anemic offensive output. They finished last in the Majors with a .212 team average and a .245 average on balls in play. In the playoffs against the Braves, they were swept in two games without scoring a run in 22 innings.

But that was then, and this is now.

Cincinnati batted around in a six-run third inning and brought eight batters to the plate in a wild two-run fourth that included a benches-clearing scuffle involving Nick Castellanos.

Castellanos believed that the team was beginning to gel after a disjointed 60-game season amid the pandemic.

"We’re becoming boys with each other and that’s step one of a good team," Castellanos said. "It’s genuine love and support for the person, for the guy beside you.”

It was a 1-0 Cardinals lead in the third inning when Tucker Barnhart's two-run homer to right field against Adam Wainwright gave the Reds the lead. As the inning wore on for Wainwright, Eugenio Suárez added a two-out RBI infield single and Mike Moustakas hit a grounder past third baseman Nolan Arenado for another run. Next, Jonathan India softly hit a ball to the left side for an RBI single.

None of the three hits had an expected batting average of more than .230, according to Statcast.

"We talked last year about being a really unlucky team," Barnhart said. "To see some hits go through against the shift, just outstretched arms of the defender, seeing the ball go through -- it’s a good feeling. I think that it’s the oldest cliche in the book, but hitting is contagious. You get hits, and it adds confidence to us as an offense and to us as a team. We got to keep rolling. I know we’re only two games in, but we’re a good team."

Not to be overlooked was a solid pitching performance by Reds starting pitcher Tyler Mahle, who struck out nine over five-plus innings. Mahle gave up three runs (two earned), including a pair of solo homers to Paul DeJong.

It was a 6-2 game in the fourth when Cardinals reliever Jake Woodford plunked Castellanos in the ribs with a 92 mph sinker. There were words exchanged, but the big incident came later when Castellanos scored from third base on a wild pitch. He collided with Woodford on his slide and stood up and flexed, which brought a shove from Yadier Molina and cleared the benches.

Only one thing mattered to Castellanos, however.

“We had a good day today. We won, right? Cincinnati is happy," Castellanos said. "The Reds won. It comes down to ‘W’’s. Any day we can put a ‘W’ on the board is a good day for Reds Country. That’s it.”