3 biggest winners, 2 biggest losers from Reds Opening Day

After scoring a home run, Spencer Steer is greeted by teammates
After scoring a home run, Spencer Steer is greeted by teammates / Phil Didion/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Obviously things didn't go according to plan, but a scrappy Cincinnati Reds team almost pulled off a ninth-inning rally to take home the win on Opening Day. Unfortunately, Cincinnati fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates by a final score of 5-4.

It's important not to overreact. Remember, the baseball season is 162 games. But that doesn't mean that a fine outing during Game 1 can't help set the tone for a terrific 2023 campaign. By the same token, an underwhelming performance could be a precursor of things to come.

In baseball, there are winners and losers. So, with some time to reflect upon on the Reds Opening Day loss, let's look at the three biggest winners and the two biggest losers from Thursday's game against Pittsburgh.

Reds biggest Opening Day winner: The city of Cincinnati

Okay, some folks may find this a bit cheesy, but it's the truth. The city of Cincinnati shined on Opening Day, and after the last few years, it was great to see a return to normalcy.

Let's face it, Opening Day in the Queen City hasn't been the same since 2019. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled Opening Day. The season didn't even begin until the summer, and even then, the stands were empty.

In 2021, because of the lingering community health restrictions in place, the Reds opened the season before a crowd of just 12,264. The pageantry was absent and there was just something missing.

Last season, because of the lockout, for the first time since 1990, the Cincinnati Reds opened the season on the road. Opening Day took place in Atlanta against the defending champion Braves, and it just felt wrong.

But this year, before a record-breaking crowd for a regular season game at Great American Ball Park, Opening Day in Cincinnati finally felt normal again. The Findlay Market Parade, the American flag unfurled in center field, and 40,000-plus in attendance. Take a bow, Cincinnati. You know how to do Opening Day right.

Reds biggest Opening Day winner: Spencer Steer

Something strange struck me when watching the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. There's been a lot of talk all spring about prospects like Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Matt McLain. But no one seems to be talking about Spencer Steer.

In fact, with so much depth on the infield dirt, it's almost as if Steer is acting as a placeholder at third base until either Nick Senzel is healthy, Encarnacion-Strand gets called up, or Noelvi Marte is ready for The Show.

Steer was Cincinnati's best hitter on Opening Day. The 25-year-old rookie went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a home run. After trailing 4-1 heading into the fourth inning, Steer put one in the left-center field bleachers and cut the Reds deficit to only two.

Spencer Steer is no slouch defensively. For all the talk of how poorly the former Minnesota Twins prospect had performed on the field during spring, his athletic play that saved a run in the fourth inning helped squash the Pirates rally.

Steer was able to navigate his throw to catcher Tyler Stephenson around the crafty running of Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds and secure the second out of the inning. Steer had a great all-around game on Thursday afternoon.

Reds biggest Opening Day winner: Jonathan India

This is a big year for Jonathan India. After missing nearly half of last season due to injury, India came into spring training ready to prove the doubters wrong. The Cincinnati Reds second baseman did that on Opening Day.

India went 2-for-4 and drew a walk on Thurssday afternoon. The 26-year-old represented the tying run in the ninth with only one out after smashing a double off Pirates closer David Bednar. But both TJ Friedl and Jake Fraley failed to get India home to tie the game.

India also looked very spry and quick on the defensive side of things. With the shift having been eliminated coming into this season, there's concern about India's ability to handle the keystone in 2023. On Opening Day, at least, there were no concerns whatsoever.

India is the table-setter, the spark plug, the straw that stirs the drink, or any number of clever wors you want to use. The bottom line is, as India goes, so go the Cincinnati Reds.

On Opening Day, Jonathan India looked like the clear leader on the field and in the dugout. He was the first one to meet Spencer Steer after the rookie's round tripper got the Reds back in the game. India had a fantastic performance, albeit in a loss.

Reds biggest Opening Day loser: The pitching staff

Cincinnati Reds starter Hunter Greene did not do David Bell any favors on Opening Day. Whether or not you agree withe decision to pull Greene when Bell did, it was likely that the fourth inning would have been his last. Greene was sitting at 83 pitches when Bell lifted him after pitching in just 3.1 innings.

Greene had his moments, to be sure. But an inefficient outing like that is going to put the ballgame into the hands of bullpen much too early. Alexis Diaz is about the only reliever that I actually trust, though Derek Law pitched well in relief. But if this team is going to find any measure of success, the Reds starters must go a minimum of five innings.

It's probably fair to second-guess Bell's decision to pull Greene, but let's not overreact and suggest that he made the wrong move based on the pitcher he turned to. Fernando Cruz pitched very when called up last season, but the right-hander just didn't have it on Opening Day.

Cruz could only get one out, and that was due to a heads-up play by Spencer Steer. Cruz walked in two runs and a wild pitch allowed the Pirates to a take a three-run advantage in the fourth inning.

Alex Young settled things down, the aforementioned Law pitched very well, Buck Farmer let a free pass be his undoing, and even Ian Gibaut walked a batter in the ninth inning. In the end, the Reds pitching staff struck out 11 batters, but they also surrendered nine free passes. That's a quick way to lose a lot of games.

Reds biggest Opening Day loser: Free-swinging hitters

So, congratulations to the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff for racking up 11 Ks. But the Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers put forth a terrific performance as well. The Buccos punched out 15 Reds batters on Opening Day.

Will Benson was victimized on four separate occasions, and Jose Barrero went down on strikes twice. Both players, but especially Benson, looked uncofortable in the batters' box. Hopefully those two will get things going the next time they take the field.

But Benson and Barrero represent the bottom of the batting order. More surprising might have been the three strikeouts from TJ Friedl. Even Wil Myers struck out twice on Opening Day. Even the normally reliable Tyler Stephenson looked off his game. While Stephenson logged just one strikeout, the Reds catcher left four men on base and grounded into a costly double-play in the first inning.

The Reds must be more disciplined at the dish this season. Without much power to speak of in the lineup, drawing walks, laying down the occasion bunt, and working the count are going to become key in order for this year's team to manufacture runs.

It's just one game, and the Cincinnati Reds still have a chance to win the series. Nick Lodolo will take the hill for Saturday's matchup and sophomore hurler Graham Ashcraft will toe the rubber on Sunday afternoon.

Next. 4 biggest X-factors heading into the Reds 2023 season. dark