McCoy: Mahle, Drury lead Reds to season-opening win over Braves

The Cincinnati Reds should consider lobbying MLB’s schedule-makers to permit them to open every season against the defending World Series champions.

The Reds opened the 2022 season in Atlanta on Thursday night in Truist Park against the defending World Series champion Braves.

And it was no contest. The Reds blasted the Braves, 6-3. They have now faced defending World Series winners in season openers six times and won five.

Tyler Mahle, making his first Opening Day starting assignment, made the Braves look like the 1935 Boston Braves (115 losses). Mahle pitched five innings and used 84 pitches to muzzle Atlanta on one run, three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

And newcomer Brandon Drury, playing third base and batting ninth, launched a three-run home run in the sixth, turning a two-run lead into a five-run advantage. It came off relief pitcher Collin McHugh, making his first appearance for the Braves and facing his first hitter.

Drury hit only four home runs for the New York Mets last season and McHugh gave up only three home runs in 64 innings for Tampa Bay last season.

For the Reds, the start of the 2022 baseball season is like the bible passage from Isaiah 6:8, “Whom shall I send?”

Whom did the Reds send to Atlanta?

There are only 10 players from last year’s Opening Day roster. There are 18 new names on the 28-man roster. Sixteen members from last season’s Opening Day roster are gone (three are on the injured list).

Joey Votto began his 15th year on the major league roster and no other player owns more than five years. Kyle Farmer was the sixth different Opening Day shortstop in six years.

Mostly, it is a bunch of Strangers in Paradise.

And they had a blast Thursday night and other than Drury it was accomplished by familiar faces.

The Reds scored first in the second inning, a rally that began when Atlanta starter and 14-game winner Max Fried hit Tyler Stephenson with a pitch. Nick Senzel singled and Farmer singled to make it 1-0.

The Reds pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the third, an inning that began with bloop singles by Jonathan India and Aristides Aquino.

Tommy Pham walked to fill the bases and Votto lined a hard, run-producing single that left his big-knobbed bat at 104.7 miles an hour. Stephenson lobbed a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

Mahle’s only problem surfaced in the third when he issued two walks and a run scored on Austin Riley’s infield hit.

Fried retired the first two in the sixth, then Mike Moustakas and Farmer singled. Braves manager Brian Snitker brought in McHugh to face Drury and he doubled Cincinnati’s pleasure with his home run that lifted the score from 3-1 to 6-1.

The Reds produced 10 hits, two each by India, Farmer and Drury.

Dauri Moreta made his Reds’ debut out of the bullpen in the eighth and it was not memorable, not something he’ll put into his scrapbook.

He walked Mat Olson and Riley launched a 425-foot home run far over the left field fence, cutting the Reds’ lead to 6-3. Riley had three of Atlanta’s four hits.

He went to 2-and-0 on Marcell Ozuna, but Ozuna helped out by swinging the next pitch and popped it up. Moreta then struck out Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall.

Former starter Tony Santillan pitched  a 1-2-3 ninth for his first major league save, recording two strikeouts as the Braves struck out 13 times.

To add to the merriment, ESPN put a microphone on Votto and he chatted with broadcasters Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and David Cone for the entire bottom of the fourth.

Votto talked non-stop, revealing that he is contemplating getting a gold tooth, “Put some bling in my mouth,” and that he is considering a trip to Brazil to get a tattoo.

After that half inning, Votto came to bat in the top of the fifth and popped out to the pitcher, the first time in his career he popped out to the pitcher.

Votto was not heard again on the microphone, but he and his teammates spoke loudly without one to open the season.

About the Author