by Steve Mancuso

Sonny’s Side Up, Reds win opener 7-1

A game we weren’t sure would ever arrive, did.

Pitcher Sonny Gray and veterans Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas helped make the wait a little more worth it as the Reds beat the Detroit Tigers 7-1 to win the 2020 Opening Day game. 

Gray continued his outstanding pitching from training camp. We’d noticed in his last few starts (here and here) since practice resumed that Gray seemed ready for today’s assignment. From the first Tigers hitter, Niko Goodrum, who Gray struck out on an 82.5 curveball, it was obvious the 30-year-old had command of his plus fastball, slider and curve. In 6 innings, Gray struck out 9 and walked 2. That included Gray’s 1000th major league whiff. The Tigers managed two balls hit over 100-mph, one was a ground ball by Miguel Cabrera, the other a titanic 447-foot home run by C.J. Cron. Gray threw 90 pitches. 

Joseph Daniel Votto had himself a good game. He lined a single to right field in the first inning as part of two-run frame. In his third at bat, still facing lefty Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, Votto pulled a homer to right center. The 38-year-old first baseman hit 15 homers last year and 12 the season before. What was amazing about Votto’s home run tonight was where Boyd had thrown the ball. The pitch was inside and high in the zone. Votto, of course, was fully choked up. All those times that Votto does the practice swing where he pulls the bat right up close to his body. Wonder when he would ever use that? Today, on Opening Day he did. Watch how close this pitch is to Votto and how quickly he gets through his swing to get the bat head to the ball. 

Shogo Akiyama entered the game in the 6th inning after the Tigers changed from a left-handed pitcher to a righty. The free agent who signed with the Reds out of Japan battled through a tough at bat and fouled off two tough pitches before slapping a 96-mph fastball back up the middle to drive in the Reds fifth run. 

Mike Moustakas made the defensive play of the game for the Reds, diving on a ball over the second base bag and making the throw to first. 

The Reds appeared to be more aggressive with shifting during training camp, particularly to right-hand batters. In this case, Moustakas was pulled toward the bag to start and made a terrific stop. 

Lucas Sims pitched the 7th, giving a walk but striking out two in a shutout inning. Cincinnati area native Nate Jones pitched the 8th. The Tigers’ Harold Castro sent Akiyama to the fence on Jones first batter.

The good news is that Jones’ fastball was clocked averaging 96 mph. Remember, he’s coming off several elbow surgeries. His calling card has been velocity. This is the first chance we’ve had to see whether the old Nate Jones is back. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it was more than that. Brooks Raley pitched a clean 9th. 

Other offensive heroes including Moustakas who drilled a 2-run, 421-foot homer to right field on a 3-1 count. Curt Casali singled and walked against Boyd. It’s worth remembering that Casali has an excellent career run creation split (113 wRC+) against LHP. He should start every game against lefties. 

The Reds are going to platoon with a dedication this year. Manager David Bell started Phillip Ervin, Casali and DH Matt Davidson because the Tigers starter today was a lefty. As soon as the Tigers changed to a RHP, Bell brought in Winker to hit for Davidson and Akiyama batted for Ervin. But there are limits to how pure a team can be managed to maximize platoon advantages. Casali stayed in the game because you don’t want to flop your catchers back and forth for wear-and-tear reasons. Winker took a subsequent AB against a tough LH reliever. 

Reds Most Valuable Players
  • Sonny Gray (.246 WPA) win probability added
  • Mike Moustakas (.137 WPA)
  • Nick Castellanos (.098 WPA)
  • Joey Votto (.074 WPA)
Reds Most Valuable Hit
  • Mike Moustakas (.157 WPA) home run
Hardest-Hit Balls
  • Jesse Winker (106.9 mph) ground out
  • Nick Senzel (105.4 mph) line out
  • Mike Moustakas (104.3 mph) home run
  • Nick Castellanos (102.6 mph) ground out
Highest Pitch Velocities by Pitcher
  • Nate Jones (96.2 mph)
  • Lucas Sims (94.7 mph)
  • Sonny Gray (94.1 mph)
  • Brooks Raley (90.5 mph)
What’s Next?

The Reds play the Tigers tomorrow at 5:10 pm at Great American Ball Park. The pitching matchup is Luis Castillo vs. Ivan Nova. Looks like a good pairing for the Reds.

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Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.


  • R Smith

    Bob Castellini was interviewed today. He said he doesn’t believe the DH is best for this franchise but it’s best for baseball and he will no longer argue against it. He also said this team has the best clubhouse chemistry he’s seen and a great group committed to winning.

    He also said other sports implement new rules to avoid 4 hour games and extra inning rules makes sense to avoid 17 innings.

  • kmartin

    Thank you for the very thorough write up. I love looking at all the numbers as opposed to a routine box score. Winker and Senzel had the two hardest hit balls but did not get on. The Reds hit a lot of line drives today. It was a fun game to watch.

  • pinson343

    It’s great to have all this information, this was and will be my first stop after a game. I like all those line drives, especially from Votto.
    In LF last year, did we see a single catch like the one Shogo made today ? His route to the ball wasn’t direct, but just the same.
    I’ve been more concerned about bullpen depth than anything else, off to a good start there today.
    Suarez went hitless, which last year would have meant getting shut out.

  • Brian B

    Great recap. Great game. It was refreshing to feel some normalcy tonight. Also, maybe it’s just me but Thom seemed more tolerable than normal. Hope it continues. I’m already looking forward tomorrow, go Reds!

    • Steve Mancuso

      Agreed about the normalcy. I had the volume off other than a few innings of listening to the radio broadcast. So the Thom-free experience was even more pleasant.

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