The offensive by the Cincinnati Reds, Nick Castellanos, destroys the St. Louis Cardinals

Nick Castellanos launched fireworks against the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time in a row on Sunday.

This time he let his piece speak.

At the end of the fifth inning, Castellanos rolled a 91-mile cutter and watched it sail over the midfield wall. When the Cardinals midfielder Dylan Carlson appeared empty on his fence jump, the 11,629 people in the Great American Ball Park crowd broke out.

It was a triple homer from – who else? – The man who was the focus all weekend. His goal ignited the rest of the line-up and led the Reds to a 12-1 win, playing two of the three games in their season opening streak against the Cardinals.

“That’s where only a great player can get through,” said Reds starter Jeff Hoffman. “That’s what people like that do. I actually said it to Sonny (Gray) before he went on the plate. I said, ‘This is the guy I want in this situation.'”

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The Reds scored 27 runs and a total of 30 goals in their first three games of the season, the third highest run they have had in three games in the club’s history (36 in 1895 and 33 in 1976), according to Elias Sports Bureau.

You never had more than 24 runs in a series or three-game segment last year. Castellanos was a big catalyst with six hits on eleven bats this weekend, including two homers, five RBI and six runs scored.

“When he’s hot, he’s hot,” said rookie Jonathan India, who meets with Castellanos in the off-season. “He’s one of the best players in baseball I think. I love watching him play. His mentality during the game is amazing. He’s a dog out there.”

It was only a weekend – 2% of the 162-game season – but what a start to the offense. The off-season saw few changes to a line-up that failed to run over 22 innings when they were swept out of the postseason.

It’s essentially the same group that had a league low of 0.212. Including the playoffs, the Reds reached a total of 23 runs in the last seven games of last year.

Hitting is contagious, they say, but the Reds seem to be playing with an edge.

“Our guys worked so hard last year and the results didn’t show up,” said Reds manager David Bell. “When it happens, a lot of good things can be built on it. The momentum, the confidence and all of that is important, even though it’s three games.”

The Cardinals right-handed Carlos Martínez threw three perfect innings before Castellanos hit a one-off triple from the midfield wall in the fourth inning.

Castellanos raised his arms as he stood on the third base and called to his teammates in the dugout: “Let’s go!” It was the same thing he screamed without adding a brightly colored word as he stood over Cardinal’s Aide Jake Woodford on Saturday, resulting in a bench clearing incident and his first career entry.

Four pitches later, Joey Votto drilled an RBI single into right field to hit Castellanos. According to Statcast, it was Votto’s hardest hit since data collection began in 2015. That way, the no-hitter was gone and the shutout was gone.

“It’s a raw emotion emanating from him,” said India of Castellanos. “That’s how I am as a player. I’ll go to war with this guy all day.”

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) reacts to the dugout after scoring a triple in the fourth inning during a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, April 4, 2021 at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park has hit.

The lock gates opened in a sixth inning with six runs against the Cardinals bullpen. Rookies India and Tyler Stephenson had consecutive RBI singles on floor balls sneaking through the infield. Nick Senzel met in a wild field and pumped his fist after slipping under a label.

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Then Tyler Naquin fed the big blast with an undoubtedly triple homer that flew halfway up the right field seats. Naquin, who signed a minor league deal with the Reds in February, watched the ball fly out of the racket’s box for a moment – his first homer as a member of the Reds.

“That improved the mood a little (Saturday),” said Naquin. “To come out, win, and actually pile it up like that, it says a lot for the guys who come out and keep grinding.”

The energy spread to the pitching staff as well. Tejay Antone had two runners on his base in the sixth inning before retiring Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong to secure a three-run lead.

Antone, who touched 99mph on his fastball on his season debut, jumped off the hill in excitement when he beat DeJong to get two runners stranded in goal position.

“That was a big key to the game,” said Bell. “That could have been a turning point in both directions. The last game he made for DeJong was, I think, a 3-2 slider. It’s big, great.”

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman (23) delivers in the third inning during a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, April 4, 2021 at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati.

Hoffman, who made his Reds debut, made a nice first impression. He hit six over five innings, allowing three hits and one run. It was his first start since the 2019 season when he was kicked out of the bullpen exclusively for the Colorado Rockies last year.

He earned a spot on the rotation when Sonny Gray and Michael Lorenzen were added to the 10-day injured list earlier in the season, and he watched the role on Sunday. He worked ahead in counts and threw 55 of his 77 pitches for strikes.

“Probably the best we’ve seen him,” said Bell.

The Reds will start a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at 6:40 p.m. on Monday to complete their season opening homestand, but they couldn’t have written a better script two days after losing on opening day.

“We always feed on one another,” said Hoffman. “That’s something great teams do.”

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