CINCINNATI – The Reds need Homer Bailey.
One start in to the 2018 season and they’re off to a positive note. Bailey tossed six innings, gave up one run on four hits while walking three and striking out three on his first career Opening Day start. He consistently pounded the strike zone early and often and after losing some control in the sixth inning, got out of a jam with two strikeouts and a flyout to end his day with a solid line.
“I’ll be more satisfied when we pull out a win for that one. At the end of the day you can look at you threw well, but it’s still an ‘L’ and that’s what’s most important,” Bailey said. “I’m not really happy with the results because of the loss and that’s the end of it. Every game you can go out there and find things you did well, you can find things you didn’t do well. To be satisfied with a good loss is just not really in my nature or the rest of this staff. We kind of hold ourselves a little bit higher and help the team get wins.”
The outing comes against one of the most feared lineups in baseball, the Washington Nationals, who ended up coming away with a 2-0 victory on the day. The start from Bailey may have been spoiled in a loss, but Bailey can build from this. On top of his control being good, his velocity was good and mixed in a nice array of pitches.
“He was old Homer. Elevating whenever he wanted to or needed to and kept guys off balance,” Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said.
Another solid sign in the start was Bailey able to throw his curveball pain free. He did so early in counts and did it with success in hitting the strike zone, getting ahead of hitters.
“The curve was there, it was something that I wasn’t able to throw the past couple years because it hurt. We threw some in some really big counts that really played well for us. To have that fourth pitch to be a weapon is hopefully going to be a big deal going down the road,” Bailey said.
A guy that’s thrown just 125 innings the last four seasons, that’s a really good sign.
The run in the first inning that was Bailey’s only blemish wasn’t necessarily his fault either, as Bryce Harper’s line shot up the middle hit off shortstop Jose Peraza’s glove, putting runners on the corners with one out. Bailey then induced Ryan Zimmerman to what looked like an inning-ending double play on a grounder to third, but Scooter Gennett’s throw on the turn from second base to first came up way short and on a ball that Joey Votto probably digs 99 times out of 100 popped out of his glove, allowing Adam Eaton to score.
Bailey settled in nicely after that. He retired seven straight batters in a stretch from the third through fifth innings, throwing 50 of his first 72 pitches for strikes.
The jam in the sixth started with a leadoff single by Anthony Rendon followed by a walk to Harper. He then recorded two straight strikeouts on a four-seam fastball to get Zimmerman swinging followed by a changeup to Howie Kendrick in the dirt to record the second out. Trea Turner then walked to set up a bases loaded situation with Michael Taylor who built a favorable 3-1 count. Then the confidence showed up for the $105 million dollar man.
“He executed just about any pitch at any time. He threw a 3-1 slider with the bases loaded to Michael Taylor and it takes a lot of guts to do that. He was extremely impressive and hopefully it’s just a good thing moving forward,” Barnhart said.
After another slider that was fouled off, Bailey got Taylor to fly out to end the threat.
“We were able to combat a real good lineup, a few things here or there and maybe we’re still playing,” Bailey said.
A somewhat revamped bullpen kept the Reds in it the rest of the way, including Amir Garrett, who came on in the seventh and pitched a scoreless frame. Garrett surprisingly was not named Tuesday’s fifth starter with an injured rotation, rather relegating him to a bullpen role. He took the role in stride.
“I don’t really care. Wherever they put me, they feel like they can help the team win, I’m all for it. I’m not complaining about it. I know they have a plan for me where they feel like I can succeed and help the team win. I’m totally okay with it if I’m in the bullpen,” Garrett said. “Wherever they want, whatever I can help this team to do, I’ll do it. I’m not a chooser and say I want to start, whatever they have a plan for me, I’m all for it.”
Wandy Peralta and Kevin Quackenbush then pitched a scoreless eighth before Jared Hughes surrendered an insurance run in the ninth, thanks to the speed from Michael Taylor, bunting his way on, stealing second, advancing to third on a grounder and then scoring on a sacrifice fly.
The Reds and their fans can take away a moral victory in this one, losing to reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who struck out 10 in six innings. It won’t get any easier Saturday, as they’ll face Stephen Strasburg. Luis Castillo will oppose him, a young arm the Reds have high hopes for after a promising rookie season.
It’s one game, but Opening Day provided a ray of hope for the Reds in 2018, even in a loss.