Castillo blitzed early in rare off performance

Suárez rocky defensively in first start at SS since 2018

April 2nd, 2021

CINCINNATI -- After missing out on live baseball for all of 2020, the Reds’ fans in attendance for Thursday's Opening Day contest against the Cardinals endured bone-chilling temperatures that sometimes featured snow flurries. Some of the action during Cincinnati's 11-6 loss also did little to warm the cockles of the heart.

Reds starter Luis Castillo turned in an uncharacteristic first start to open 2021. Not only did Castillo not record a strikeout over his 3 1/3 innings, he allowed 10 runs (eight earned), eight hits and two walks with a hit batter and run-scoring wild pitch.

"The fans and the crowds are really what gives us motivation out there every time to do well. They were out there today. Unfortunately it didn't go our way today," Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos.

Castillo caught a break in the first inning when Paul Goldschmidt's apparent homer to the right-field bullpen was ruled a double upon video review. That's where his good fortune ended. By the end of the half-inning, the Reds were trailing 6-0 after nine men had batted.

The changeup is Castillo's bread and butter pitch and the one in his arsenal that he used the most in both 2019 and '20. According to Statcast, however, on Thursday, he threw his changeup only 18 times out of 73 pitches -- far less than his two-seam fastball and slider.

"I don't think we were specifically trying to throw fastballs early in the count and trying to mix in pitches afterwards," Castillo said. "I think we were trying to mix them all at the same time. It didn't work out today, our plan; there's always the next day that we'll try to get them."

Castillo wasn't alone with uncharacteristic moments during the game.

• Joey Votto popped out on the infield twice in the game, something he hadn't done since Sept. 22, 2008 -- during his rookie year.

• In his first start at shortstop since 2018, Eugenio Suárez committed a critical one-out error trying to backhand Yadier Molina's ground ball, which scored two runs. The next batter, Dylan Carlson, hit a first-pitch two-seam fastball for a three-run homer to right field, giving the Cardinals their six-run lead.

• Suárez made his second error in the top of the second inning after he made a nice stop on a ground ball hit by Goldschmidt. But an errant throw that hopped in the dirt past Votto allowed Goldschmidt to take second base, where he eventually scored on Nolan Arenado's RBI single to center field.

"Those are plays that he’s going to make," Reds manager David Bell said. "Actually, the backhand play, he did a good job getting to it. With his arm, he’s going to be able to make that play. That’s, for a shortstop, to be able to go that deep into the hole and be able to finish that play -- which we know he will do -- is a good sign."

The Reds’ lineup didn't go quietly against Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty. Nick Castellanos clobbered a two-run homer to left field in the third inning and Suárez lifted a homer to right field to lead off the fourth. In his Major League debut, Jonathan India hit a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth.

"A lot of hard-hit balls. Offensively, it was a really solid day," Bell said. "We were one swing from getting back in the game a few different times. Offensively, we did our part and almost got back into the game."

A major baserunning gaffe by rookie Tyler Stephenson killed a rally in the sixth, effectively sinking the Reds’ comeback chances. Castellanos was batting with one out and the bases loaded when he ripped a line drive to left field. Stephenson was running all the way.

"He just, off the bat, read it as a base hit," Bell said. "I think a lot of us did in the dugout, too. Obviously, your job as a runner, you know where the outfielders are. I think he was just reacting. He knew how many outs and all that. He just had the wrong read off the bat."

As India tagged up from third base to score, Stephenson ran to third without having tagged up. The ball was caught by Tyler O'Neill and the throw to second base resulted in a double play, while India's run was disallowed.

"We score right there, it’s 7-11," Castellanos said. "Joey and Suárez and [Mike Moustakas] are coming up against a guy who’s struggling a little bit [to just] catch a rhythm and a feel. Who knows? If they [get] on, or even if they get a hit, that can change a game, put us within striking distance. Even if it makes St. Louis have to use [Jordan] Hicks or [Andrew] Miller out of the 'pen, now we got guys that have seen them. It’s amazing in this game, the little things really add up and add up to big things at the end of the day."