If Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos hadn’t appealed his suspension, the hot streak would have been on hold. He would have been out of the lineup for two games for "aggressive actions” against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, and Castellanos wouldn’t have started on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Castellanos took advantage of the opportunity and accomplished the one thing he hadn’t done yet this season –– hit a go-ahead home run late in the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning of Monday’s game against the Pirates, Castellanos drove a homer off the bottom of the second deck to turn a tie game into a 5-3 win for the Reds. When he made contact, Castellanos shouted, flipped his bat and pumped up the crowd.
Nick Castellanos suspension:David Bell 'disappointed': 'He did not initiate physical contact'
The fans at Great American Ball Park had a loud cheer for Castellanos every time his name was called over the public address, and the home run cheer was the loudest.
On Monday, Castellanos added a single to the outfield, a walk and a broken-bat groundout to keep his string of quality at-bats going. Through four games, he had a .533 batting average, five extra-base hits and three home runs.
Before Castellanos’ home run, the Reds needed one of their best starting pitching performances of the season. It came from a player who didn’t learn that he made the team until the end of spring training.
In the lead-up to José De León’s start for the Cincinnati Reds, he went back and watched his first MLB start in 2016. Back then, he was young and skinny and a top-30 prospect in MLB.
Before Monday, he hadn’t started a single MLB game in the intervening four years.
With his family watching him pitch, De León had a new memorable start. On Monday, De León had more strikeouts than he had in his entire 2017, 2018 and 2019 MLB seasons when he bounced between the Majors and the Minors.
In the first inning, De León allowed two home runs, but he turned around the momentum in the second inning in an unlikely way.
According to De León’s own calculations, it should have taken him until 2033 to get his first Major League hit.
During spring training, De León said he’d be fine starting or coming out of the bullpen, but if the Reds needed a hitter they should “find somebody else.” Before spring training, he hadn’t had an at-bat since 2016, so he told the opposing catcher to have the pitcher “take it easy on me.”
Later, De León joked, “Maybe in 12 years, I’ll get a hit.”
His first at-bat of the season came with two runners on base. And he knocked a single past a diving second baseman for his first career hit and an RBI.
After that, De León allowed just a single hit and no runs on the mound, and he left the game in the sixth inning to a standing ovation.
Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker was in a similar rhythm, allowing one run and striking out six Reds hitters in four innings. But against Pittsburgh’s bullpen, the Reds offense was back to form.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Reds third baseman Mike Moustakas pulled a home run over the right field bullpen that nearly left the last row of Great American Ball Park. Then in the seventh, Castellanos’ no-doubt home run gave the Reds the lead.
In the eighth inning, second baseman Jonathan India and outfielder Aristides Aquino added RBI that extended the lead.
At this point in each of the last three seasons, the Reds had a 1-3 record. But after Amir Garrett closed Monday’s game against the Pirates, Cincinnati opened 2021 with a 3-1 record for the first time since 2017.