Cincinnati's Plan to Play Without a True Shortstop Backfired Immediately

Welcome to the primary installment of The Opener, the place each weekday morning you’ll get a recent, topical column to begin your day from one in all’s MLB writers.

At a time when fewer balls are put in play than ever, Main League Baseball’s oldest franchise is conducting a totally fashionable baseball experiment: How a lot does protection actually matter?

Over the past two offseasons, the Cincinnati Reds have bolstered their offense by worrying much less and fewer about their fielding. They signed Nick Castellanos, one of many worst defensive outfielders in baseball, and third baseman Mike Moustakas to play second base as a result of they’re each productive hitters. They figured they might restrict the publicity of Moustakas’s lack of vary due to all their defensive shifts, and that Castellanos’s poor outfield play wouldn’t matter as a lot with the Reds taking part in their house video games at Nice American Ballpark, which has among the smallest dimensions within the sport. Because it opened in 2003, extra house runs have been hit there than at another large league ballpark. 

Cincinnati made the postseason in 2020, the primary 12 months of its grand experiment, and within the offseason, the Reds let shortstop Freddy Galvis go away in free company and failed to add one to exchange him. As a substitute, they moved third baseman Eugenio Suárez over to brief, the premium infield defensive place he hasn’t performed since 2015. Who cares if he makes the performs? He rakes! Moustakas is again taking part in third and rookie Jonathan India, Cincinnati’s first-round draft decide in 2018, is beginning at second.

You’ll be able to most likely see the place that is going. In Thursday’s opener towards the Cardinals, which St. Louis gained 11–7, Suárez botched his first two probabilities within the subject and price the Reds no less than a few runs. The Cardinals had been main 1–0 within the first inning and the bases had been loaded with one out when Yadier Molina bounced a routine double play ball to Suárez’s proper. Going for the backhand, the shortstop whiffed at it, permitting Molina to attain and two runners to rating. Then, on the following pitch, Dylan Carlson ripped a three-run homer off the right-field foul pole. 

Within the subsequent inning, Paul Goldschmidt legged out an infield single to shortstop and went to second on Suárez’s throwing error. Nolan Arenado singled him house—however the run nearly actually wouldn’t have scored if not for the error as a result of Goldschmidt would’ve stayed at first base. The following batter, Paul DeJong, grounded into an inning-ending double play.

At one level, the Cardinals led 11–3, however the Reds chipped away on the lead and made it a ballgame as a result of, nicely, they’ll hit. Each Castellanos and Suárez homered. Castellanos went 3-for-5 and leadoff hitter Jesse Winker, one other unhealthy defensive outfielder, went 2-for-4. India, who was within the lineup at second base as a result of the Reds had been snug taking part in Suárez at shortstop, had two hits in his big-league debut.

Cincinnati’s no-glove experiment failed on Opening Day, however it’s far too quickly to inform if it’s price giving up on. If nothing else, it’s undoubtedly price following all through the season.

The Yankees’ offense faltered of their 3–2 Opening Day loss to the Blue Jays in additional innings, however Gary Sánchez’s first sport went about in addition to they might’ve hoped.

Toronto’s ace—and maybe solely dependable starter—Hyun Jin Ryu made many of the New York hitters look uncomfortable along with his efficient fastball-changeup combo, biting cutter and impeccable command. The very best instance of that got here within the first inning, when Ryu whiffed Aaron Choose on a 91-mph inside heater as a result of Choose, anticipating offspeed away, swung late at a pitch he usually crushes.

Sánchez’s struggles final season had been prompted partly due to poor timing and pitch recognition. He could not catch up to fastballs however was too early on offspeed pitches; he let hittable pitches go by for referred to as strikes however flailed at breaking balls nowhere close to the zone. On Thursday towards Ryu, a pitcher who thrives due to deception, Sánchez jumped on a first-pitch fastball and launched it 407 ft into the left subject seats.

Afterward, Sánchez beat out an infield single to shortstop within the seventh and led off the underside of the ninth with a stroll. He additionally seemed snug on protection, blocking balls within the grime with ease, receiving pitches nicely and delivering a seed to second base to catch Randal Grichuk stealing. Gerrit Cole made one unhealthy pitch—a hanging slider that Teoscar Hernández demolished for a game-tying house run within the sixth—however in any other case was in rhythm with Sánchez after their rocky first 12 months as battery mates final season.

Fast Hits:

• Miguel Cabrera hit the primary house run of 2021, due to course he did. It was his 488th profession homer, and it got here in a Detroit snowstorm towards reigning AL Cy Younger winner Shane Bieber. However the very best half was Miggy sliding into second base as a result of he could not see the ball go over the fence by the snowstorm. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Cabrera wished no a part of legging out a triple. He was completely content material to keep at second with a double till he realized it was gone. The Tigers beat Cleveland, 3–2.

• Talking of loopy house runs, Cody Bellinger hit a two-run homer that was really a one-run single and an out. Within the prime of the third inning of the Dodgers’ 8–5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Discipline, Bellinger smacked a fly ball to left that bounced out of Raimel Tapia’s glove and went over the fence. Justin Turner, who started the play on first base, had rounded second when he thought Tapia made the play and booked it again to first. Within the confusion, he ran previous Bellinger, who was referred to as out as a result of he crossed Turner within the basepath.

• Pablo Sandoval cracked a pinch-hit two-run homer off Phillies ace Aaron Nola to tie the sport 2–2 with two outs within the seventh inning. The Braves had a likelihood to pull forward within the prime of the tenth, however Roman Quinn gunned down Ozzie Albies making an attempt to rating on a sacrifice fly to finish the body. Jean Segura singled home Bryce Harper to stroll it off. Philadelphia’s bullpen survived its first check.

• The motion to get Mike Trout again to the playoffs began with a bang. With the Angels trailing the White Sox 3-2 within the backside of the eighth, Trout ripped a single into left field to drive house David Fletcher and tie the sport. Later within the inning, Albert Pujols’s bouncing grounder down the third bottom line scored Shohei Ohtani to give Los Angeles the lead. Newly acquired nearer Raisel Iglesias retired Chicago so as within the subsequent body and seemed filthy doing it. Is that this the 12 months we are able to lastly consider within the Angels?

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