Cincinnati Reds outfielder Tyler Naquin sighed when he remembered how long it had been. The last time Naquin, a career .274 hitter and a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016, had been healthy on Opening Day, he hadn’t even made his big league debut yet.
Over the last five years, Naquin has gone from an often-injured starter in Cleveland to a bench player and then a non-roster invitee to Reds spring training in 2021. He entered this year competing for the last outfield spot on the Reds roster, but setbacks to Jesse Winker and Shogo Akiyama opened the door for Naquin to get playing time at the start of the season.
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After the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-1 on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park, Naquin leads the National League with 12 RBI in just 14 at-bats.
“I can’t express enough how good of a time it is to play with these guys, they’re always encouraging, no matter the situation,” Naquin said. “We’re out there together.”
Naquin had seven of those RBI on Tuesday. He opened the game with a 454-foot lead-off homer that landed on the deck that hangs over the right-field bullpen, bounced over the edge of the ballpark and was picked up by a family on the street behind the stadium near the Ohio River.
“He’s a really good well-rounded player that really could be coming into a point in his career where it could be the prime of his career,” manager David Bell said. “I know he is really comfortable being here. He loves being in Cincinnati and a part of his team.”
In the second inning, Naquin hit another home run, this time to left field. His three-run shot gave the Reds an early 5-0 lead, and the Reds piled on enough runs after that to make history.
Through five games this season, the Reds have scored a club-record 46 runs.
“You hear that hitting’s contagious,” Naquin said. “The preparation, it’s up and down the lineup. Guys are out there early hitting. Ground balls, fly balls. Doing all the works that it takes.”
Cincinnati starting pitcher Wade Miley opened the game with three perfect innings, and he had his best start since 2018. While multiple injuries set Miley back throughout the 2020 season and during 2021 spring training, Miley showed why the Reds targeted him in free agency in Dec. 2019.
Miley allowed two doubles and struck out six batters, and for the rest of his start, he mostly allowed soft contact in the infield. With help from the best defensive game this season by shortstop Eugenio Suárez, Miley allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings.
It was Miley’s sixth career start where he threw six innings and allowed two hits or fewer and his first one since July 2018.
“I wanted to do the same thing last year and had the groin (injury) that was lingering,” Miley said. “Any time you get to take the ball in a big-league game, you want to just go out, compete and give your team a chance to win. It’s all I ever try to do.”
On a night when right fielder Nick Castellanos added a double, the Reds scored their most runs in a game this year.
In addition to Naquin’s RBI, second baseman Jonathan India drove in four runs with a triple, two singles and a sacrifice fly. India extended his hitting streak to five games in his first week in MLB. India is the only rookie in the NL with more than 14 at-bats, and he’s tied with Castellanos for the team lead with a .474 batting average.
The Reds got a hit from eight of the nine spots in the lineup, and at 4-1, the team is off to its best start since 2016.
“First of all, we have good players, good hitters,” Bell said. “A lot of the same team that we had last year. We have some new guys that have come in and contributed. We feel good about our offense. We have a long way to go, it’s been a good start.”