Finally, baseball is back!
Four months after the season was originally supposed to start in late March, Major League Baseball held their first official games of the shortened 60-game season this past week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two games were played on Thursday night’s “Opening Night” while the rest of the teams kicked off their seasons on Friday for “Opening Day.”
My beloved Cincinnati Reds started the season off on a high note as they picked up an Opening Day win on Friday by cruising past Detroit 7-1.
The Tigers bounced back and won the series however as the Reds bullpen struggled on both Saturday and Sunday and gave up the lead late in the game to let the AL Central squad leave the Queen City with a 2-1 record.
While Redleg fans are undoubtedly frustrated after losing two of three to a team that lost 100-plus games a season ago, many experts believe the National League Central will go through Cincinnati this season.
If the starting pitching received during the opening weekend is any indication, the Reds will be right in the mix come late September.
The trio of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Trevor Bauer were nearly lights out in the first three games as they combined for 18 innings pitched, 33 strikeouts, and yielding only three earned runs.
Typically, if your starting pitching delivers three starts like that in a three-game series, you will be breaking out the brooms for a series sweep.
That was not the case however, due to the bullpen faltering for David Bell’s Reds.
Michael Lorenzen, who was reliable during the 2019 season appearing in 73 games with a 2.92 ERA, struggled in his first two appearances of the season giving up home runs to Miguel Cabrera on Saturday and C.J. Cron on Sunday.
Closer Raisel Iglesias continued to struggle in non-save situations just as he did in 2019 as he gave up the lead in a tie game on Saturday night in the 9th inning.
Left-hander Amir Garrett was lights out and newly acquired Pedro Strop made his first appearance and looked like he is going to fit into the bullpen well.
Former MVP Joe Votto had a tremendous start to the shortened season as he hit home runs in the first two games and drive in runs in every game of the series as he looks to bounce back from a subpar season by his standards in 2019.
Eugenio Suarez got off to a slow-start as did newly acquired Nicholas Castellanos, while slugger Mike Moustakas had a blistering start to his Reds career before being placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday after reportedly not feeling well.
The move came shortly after Matt Davidson, who started on Opening Day at DH, tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday morning. Starting center fielder Nick Senzel was also scratched prior to the game on Sunday.
Hopefully Davidson was abiding by the social distancing guidelines which could prevent the virus from potentially spreading to other members of the team.
The Reds were also without starting catcher Tucker Barnhart for the opening series as he was placed on the paternity list due to the birth of his child.
The expectations in the Queen City are higher in 2020 than they have been since the early 2010’s, and the pressure is on manager David Bell to deliver a winner after the front-office spent a large amount of money to acquire free-agents and other pieces in the off season.
If Cincinnati stays healthy as a team, which is a big question mark amid the pandemic, despite a shortened season, they will be right in the mix with the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals for the NL Central come late September.