Elly runs LA marathon in 4-steal, 4-hit night

Dodgers 'caught up at times admiring the talent' after Reds' series-opening win

May 17th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- In August 2023 during his rookie season for the Reds, took a moment to be a fan around Shohei Ohtani. As Ohtani stood on second base with a double, the shortstop walked over and playfully poked him on the arm to see if the superstar was real.

Ohtani was with the Angels then, and he's with the Dodgers now. Would De La Cruz make another move to poke or prod the All-Star?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I want to meet him again," De La Cruz said before Thursday's 7-2 series-opening win at Dodger Stadium, which happened to be Ohtani's bobblehead night. “Because when I met him last time, he was nice. He’s a great player. I want to be friends with him.”

During Thursday's victory, it was De La Cruz who proved to be both real and spectacular as he went 4-for-4 with a walk, four stolen bases and three runs scored.

“It’s special, man. Every time he takes the field, is at bat, [is] on the basepaths, I feel like we’re witnessing something special," said Reds right-hander Nick Martinez, who worked five scoreless innings of relief with one infield hit allowed.

Through 44 games, De La Cruz already has 30 steals -- which is more than 18 MLB teams -- and is on pace to swipe 110 for the season. The last time that happened was 1985, when the Cardinals' Vince Coleman stole 110 bases.

Prior to Thursday, the last Reds player with four steals in a game was Billy Hamilton in 2016.

Momentum belonged to the Reds immediately, as Will Benson led off the game with a home run to right field off Tyler Glasnow. De La Cruz followed with a grounded single through the right side and stole second base. With two outs, he scored on Tyler Stephenson's RBI double to make it 2-0.

Leading off the third inning, De La Cruz hit a 1-2 breaking ball the opposite way for a ground-rule double to left field. After swiping third base, he scored easily on Stephenson's RBI single.

De La Cruz walked with one out in the fifth inning before promptly stealing both second and third base. He scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0. Batting right-handed against Nick Ramirez in the seventh, he added a two-out single to right field, but was caught stealing to end the inning.

“Delayed steal. I tried but they got me," he said.

As for Ohtani, the Dodgers' megastar went 0-for-2 with a first-inning walk and a stolen base. He and the Dodgers' lineup were largely flummoxed by seven Reds relievers in a bullpen game.

A night like this was sorely needed for the Reds, who lost 15 of 19 games entering the day. De La Cruz came in batting .175 with 15 strikeouts over his previous 11 games. He was given a partial day off – his first of the season – from Sunday's game at Arizona.

"He's that classic five-tool player," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "And there's nothing on the baseball field he can't do. You try to keep guys like that at bay, but you get caught up at times admiring the talent."

Los Angeles is a city famous for its star power, and this weekend's Reds-Dodgers series has brought together two of the game's most dynamic players in Ohtani and De La Cruz.

“Having great players on the field, of course, that’s a lot of fun for everyone involved," Reds manager David Bell said. "It’s obviously good for the game. We’re so focused on the team aspect of things, maybe I’m guilty of losing sight sometimes of that. But when I stop to think about it, it’s special having great talent and great players out on the field.”

De La Cruz now has four career four-hit games. Thursday's was the first since last July 30 -- also against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Over three games at Chavez Ravine last season, he batted .429 with a home run.

What can he say? De La Cruz just loves L.A.

“I like playing here. I feel comfortable," De La Cruz said. “Because this is my city.”

Ohtani has been viewed as the best player in the game and one of MLB's top superstars. In only a few years, De La Cruz could potentially replace him as the game's top dog.

“He’s 22, a switch-hitter, has got power from both sides," Martinez said. "He’s dynamic in every way possible. His strength plays in every aspect of the game. There’s no doubt, if he’s not already one of the faces of baseball, he will be.”

By then, a young player just might try and poke De La Cruz's arm to see if he's real, too.