The Cincinnati Reds, whose early-season run of success continued when they hit the road, will get another chance to show their strength Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
The Reds improved to 6-1 for the first time since the 1994 season when they defeated the Diamondbacks 6-5 in 10 innings Friday to spoil Arizona’s home opener. Cincinnati has won six consecutive games after losing its season opener last week to the St. Louis Cardinals.
There were some challenges for the Reds on Friday in their first game outside of Cincinnati this season. Their potent offense didn’t quite match their home production of 9.5 runs per game.
The bullpen also coughed up a five-run lead, and what appeared to be a leadoff home run from Jesse Winker on the first pitch of Friday’s game was ruled to be off the wall, even though replays appeared to show otherwise.
The Reds didn’t end up scoring in the opening inning, but it didn’t matter. It’s been that kind of start for a franchise that has not been over .500 in a full 162-game season since 2013.
Winker, who hadn’t played since April 3 because of stomach flu, blended back in seamlessly with three hits Friday. Tucker Barnhart had three hits and two RBIs, including the go-ahead single in the 10th inning.
“Selfishly, you want to play in every game, but watching from home, watching everybody do their thing and win ballgames and hit homers and drive in runs, it was incredible to watch everyone do it,” Winker said. “It was great.”
Tyler Naquin’s fifth home run moved him into sole possession of the major league lead, and the Reds now have a club-record 63 runs through seven games, one better than the early total posted by the 1976 World Series championship club.
The Diamondbacks have not conjured up images of World Series past. Not yet anyway. Arizona is off to a 2-6 start after posting the second-worst record in the NL last season.
Arizona right fielder Kole Calhoun (knee) returned from the injured list Friday and had a two-run double, but one day earlier, center fielder Ketel Marte (hamstring) went on the IL.
And with Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith pulled from the rotation after his season debut because of command issues and slightly diminished velocity, right-hander Riley Smith (0-0, 3.60 ERA) will make his first major league start Saturday.
Riley Smith has just seven games of major league experience, none against the Reds. He gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings in relief of Caleb Smith on April 3 at San Diego.
“We’re looking for somebody to pitch deep into games,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We feel like his stuff and his mound presence is going to give us the best chance to win a baseball game. He deserves this. He’s throwing the ball extremely well for us.”
Riley Smith will be opposed by Reds right-hander Jeff Hoffman (1-0, 1.80), who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in his season debut Sunday. Hoffman is 1-3 lifetime against Arizona in 10 appearances (five starts) with a hefty 9.79 ERA in 26 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media