Senzel shines at 3B on 'bad day' for defense

May 18th, 2021

There are going to be games when one unit isn’t all that sharp. For Cincinnati, the opener against the Giants was one of those games.

The Reds’ infield defense had a forgettable evening in a 6-3 loss to the Giants at Great American Ball Park on Monday, committing two errors and one seismic collective mental gaffe that gifted the opposition a free run and, in turn, the victory.

“I just wanna say we had a bad day,” said shortstop Eugenio Suárez. “Obviously, everybody knows, everybody saw it.”

The infield’s worst mistake in the series opener won’t go down in the scorebook as an error, but it was costly nonetheless.

In the eighth inning, the Giants had Austin Slater on first and Darin Ruf on third with two outs. Reliever Cionel Pérez threw over to first and the Reds had Slater picked off. With nowhere to go, Slater’s immediate intention became to stay in a rundown long enough for Ruf to score. That’s exactly what unfolded.

The Reds’ infielders focused on the pickle and neglected to account for Ruf, who crossed the plate long before Slater was tagged out.

“I just kinda messed up there,” said first baseman Kyle Farmer. “No excuses. Should’ve thrown it home. I just kinda went blank. That shouldn’t happen in a big league ballgame. I regret it. That run was on me for sure.”

Along with the poorly executed rundown, there were a pair of “odd plays,” as described by manager David Bell, that counted as errors nonetheless.

In the first inning, Sonny Gray appeared to induce an inning-ending double-play ball, albeit one that was going to be on the tougher side. Brandon Crawford hit a one-hopper to second baseman Jonathan India, who initially bobbled the ball, then compounded his initial mistake by flipping the ball over the head of Suárez. Buster Posey scored easily, but the Reds were bailed out by an aggressive baserunning mistake by Mike Yastrezemski, who was thrown out by several feet at home.

India nearly had a second throwing error as well when his poor throw on a Mike Tauchman ground ball in the fifth took Farmer off the bag, forcing Farmer to make the more difficult play of tagging Tauchman.

In the fourth inning, Suárez was unable to transfer a grounder from glove to hand, resulting in an error. The gaffe immediately came back to bite the Reds when Wilmer Flores hit an opposite-field two-run home run in the next at-bat, dinging Gray with an unearned run.

Those runs mattered even more on a night where there wasn’t much wiggle room.

The Reds scored three runs late in the game, two of which came on back-to-back homers by Tyler Naquin and Suárez in the eighth, but they couldn’t get much going against Logan Webb. On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati’s pitching staff allowed three home runs, two of which were allowed by Gray. With a crisper defensive showing, the Reds' fortunes may very well have flipped.

Still, Cincinnati’s performance on the defensive end wasn’t a complete net negative, thanks to some solid play from Nick Senzel, who is budding into this team’s defensive Swiss Army knife.

In just his second career start at third base, Senzel took a pair of hits away from Posey with tough plays on the run, including a barehanded snag and throw in the seventh. For a team that is dealing with multiple injuries, Senzel’s ability to slide in at different positions has been invaluable.

“What he’s doing, I can’t think of another player that’s doing what he’s doing right now as far as how he’s playing center field, how he’s playing second base, the plays he’s making at third base, and he looks natural at all three,” Bell said. “It’s really impressive. He should feel great about that. It’s definitely helping our team, too, and opening up a lot of options for us.”

Alas, one player does not make a defense whole. As impressive as Senzel was with the glove, the Reds will need their entire defense to play sharp.

“It was a tough day for the infield, for sure,” Farmer said. “But I mean, that happens. We’ve played great up to this point, so I think tomorrow, we’ll come out and play better.”