Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton said it best: “We’re going to make believers out of doubters.”
That quote won’t fit on a T-shirt, but it summed up the team’s thoughts Monday on Opening Day after a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park. There are few believers outside Cincinnati’s clubhouse. There might be a few more after a 1-0 start, but the Reds started 4-0 in 2015 and then won 60 games the rest of the way.
An Opening Day victory doesn’t foretell much. It’s one of 162 games, or .62 percent of the season. Of course, a victory in front of the largest crowd (43,683) to see a regular-season game at Great American Ball Park — even if many of them had fled the cold by the time the Reds rallied with five runs in the eighth inning — gives the team confidence for the long season ahead.
“We battled back,” Hamilton said. “Everyone did their part. Nobody panicked. The pitchers kept us in the game. We battled. Nobody gave up. That’s the main thing this year: don’t give up.”
The Reds were 3-75 last season when they trailed at the start of the eighth. They are 1-0 in that category now.
“We’re going to give it our all, no matter if we’re up four or down four,” Hamilton said. “That’s what I love about this team. We’re excited about this season, and we’re going to play our hardest. That’s what we look forward to the whole season.”
Hamilton hit ninth in the opener. He went 0-for-2 but walked in the eighth to load the bases with no outs and the Reds trailing 2-1. Zack Cozart, who doubled twice and singled in his first three at-bats, followed with a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Tyler Holt from third.
Hamilton batted ninth in 61 games last season and hit .223. He led off in 46 games and hit .230. Reds manager Bryan Price said he had a long discussion with bench coach Jim Riggleman about Hamilton’s spot in the order.
Price expects Hamilton to move around in the order depending on whether the starting pitcher is left-handed or right-handed. Hamilton has hit .253 against left-handers in his career and .238 against right-handers.
“The thing about Billy hitting eighth with the pitcher behind him is, ‘Are we going to bunt the pitcher with nobody out?’ ” Price said. “If you don’t bunt the pitcher, do you try to have Billy steal the base? With one out, do you bunt the pitcher? If the pitcher hits in a double play, you’ve kind of lost the value of having Billy on first. Lastly, with two outs, if Billy gets caught stealing, then you’re leading off the next inning with the pitcher.”
Second game: Brandon Finnegan will start for the Reds at 7:10 p.m. today against the Phillies’ Aaron Nola. Both players made their big-league debuts last season.
As part of the Opening Night festivities, the Reds will walk the red carpet in the Kroger Fan Zone before the game, and there will be postgame fireworks. The first 20,000 fans receive a team calendar.