2021 Cincinnati Reds: Home Opener Series Preview

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2021 Cincinnati Reds: Home Opener Series Preview
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 29: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The 2021 Cincinnati Reds will open the MLB season at home in a three-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals. This series could set the tone for the NL Central, with both teams looking to make a statement in the early season. These two teams, along with the Brewers and Cubs, will be fighting all season long in what could be MLB’s closest division race.

2021 Cincinnati Reds: Injury Report

Both of these teams have already suffered blows to their pitching staff in spring training. Most impactful, was the loss of the Reds #1, Sonny Gray, with back spasms, though he is hopeful to only miss the first week of the season.

St. Louis has also had their share of pitching mishaps, with back-end starter Miles Mikolas ruled out for Opening Day with shoulder soreness. Meanwhile, #3 starter Kwang-Hyun Kim is questionable for opening due to back stiffness.

2021 Cincinnati Reds: Pitching Matchups

Game 1: April 1st 4:10 EDT, RHP Luis Castillo v. RHP Jack Flaherty

With Gray on the shelf, Castillo has been named the opening day starter for the Reds. Castillo is coming off two very impressive seasons and will look to make the jump into the elite tier of pitchers this year. Flaherty, on the other hand, is looking to bounce back from a forgettable 2020 and return to his 2019 form. If both of these guys have their best stuff come Opening Day, fans could be in for a real pitcher’s duel.

Game 2: April 3rd 4:10 EDT, RHP Tyler Mahle v. RHP Adam Wainwright

The Reds will turn to another young pitcher, Tyler Mahle, in Game 2 of the opening series. After losing Trevor Bauer in free agency, the Reds will be counting on Mahle to step into a bigger role in 2021. He will be opposed by Cardinals stalwart Adam Wainwright, who is looking to prove he still has something in the tank in his age 39 season.

Game 3: April 4th 1:10 EDT, RHP Jeff Hoffman v. RHP Carlos Martinez

According to Fangraphs, the Reds’ third starter will be the veteran lefty, Wade Miley. With the Cardinals starting lineup featuring no lefties and only two switch hitters, Reds management may opt to push back Miley and instead go with RHP Jeff Hoffman. The Cards could go with LHP Kwang Hyun Kim, but with his questionable readiness, Carlos Martinez may be a better bet.

2021 Cincinnati Reds: Comparing Lineups

The Reds went into the offseason with a clear need at the shortstop position. Despite the multitude of options available, they came away empty. While it seemed like the less than ideal combination of Kyle Farmer and Kyle Holder would be starting every day, this may no longer be the case.

Reds’ power-hitting third baseman Eugenio Suarez has been getting reps at his natural shortstop position after shedding significant weight this offseason. If he can provide playable defense, this would allow Mike Moustakas to move to his natural third base position, and slot prospect Jonathan India in at second base. This seems like an increasingly likely possibility, and would produce a 2021 Cincinnati Reds opening day lineup that looks something like this:

Jesse Winker LF
Nick Castellanos RF
Joey Votto 1B
Eugenio Suarez SS
Mike Moustakas 3B
Nick Senzel CF
Tucker Barnhart C
Jonathan India 2B
Luis Castillo P

By comparison, the Cardinals have much more certainty regarding their lineup. While it isn’t the flashiest lineup in baseball, they should be able to reliably score runs while featuring perhaps the best corner infield combination in the league.

Tommy Edman 2B
Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Paul DeJong SS
Yadier Molina C
Tyler O’Neill LF
Dylan Carlson RF
Harrison Bader CF
Jack Flaherty P

2021 Cincinnati Reds: Series Prediction

Like the season at large, this series should be a close one. The potential of Flaherty plus the Cards bullpen depth gives them the edge in game one, while the Reds lineup gives them the chance to take game two by beating up on Wainwright. However, the Reds’ lack of pitching depth after Mahle could cost them Game 3.

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main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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