Castellanos, Moustakas lift Cincinnati to third straight win

Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content Services
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CINCINNATI — Nick Castellanos hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning hours after deciding to appeal a two-game suspension for his part in a brawl, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 on Monday night.

Castellanos connected off Sam Howard (0-1) for his third homer of the season. He admired the shot as he walked out of the box, whipped his bat toward the home dugout and yelled toward teammates as he shuffled toward first.

“I’m happy for players on any team to show emotion,” manager David Bell said. “It takes a lot to play this game and play it well. To be able to enjoy when you do well, it’s a good thing.”

Castellanos was disciplined by Major League Baseball on Monday afternoon for sparking an incident with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday – the right fielder flexed while standing over pitcher Jake Woodford moments after sliding into home. Woodford had hit Castellanos with a pitch moments before. His suspension is being held in abeyance until the appeal is heard.

Monday’s shot was the 500th RBI in Castellanos’ career.

“He’s been carrying us,” said Reds third baseman Mike Moustakas. “Nick is having a phenomenal start to the season. His energy is electric. It’s contagious. What he brings to the table is more than offense and defense. His game is rubbing off on us.”

Jose De Leon tied a career high with nine strikeouts and allowed two runs, three hits and two walks over five innings to help the Reds secure a third straight win.

Moustakas tied it at 2 in the fifth with his first home run of the season, a solo shot on an 0-1 pitch just inside the right-field foul pole off Luis Oviedo.

“He threw me a slow curveball 0-0 and I swung through it,” Moustakas said. “I got a good fastball and didn’t miss it. I stayed inside enough to keep it straight.”

Moustakas also doubled and scored in the eighth. Sean Doolittle (1-0) struck out two in a perfect seventh, and Amir Garrett allowed a run but completed his first save.

Phillip Evans and Colin Moran both homered off De Leon in the first inning.

“Those won’t kill you,” De Leon said. “I was able to settle in after those solo homers. I took it personal. I was more aggressive.”

The Reds’ offense has produced 30 runs over the first four games of the season, after scoring 27 in the first three games for the first time since 1976.

Reds pitchers held the Pirates to just one hit over the middle seven innings until Bryan Reynolds homered in the ninth.

De Leon fanned three batters in the third and fifth innings as Reds pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts.

“I think De Leon did a nice job,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He settled down after the two homers in the first. Really used his fastball effectively. Located his fastball, used it later in counts, and it gave us a little trouble.”

WHAT DH?

Both starting pitchers in Monday’s game collected their first major league hits. Pirates right-hander JT Brubaker, who grew up in nearby Springfield, Ohio, and allowed a run through four innings in his second career start against the Reds, singled in the third. De Leon’s first major league hit and RBI in his first at-bat since 2016 got the Reds on the board in the second.

“When I put it in play, I knew we needed a base hit, so I hustled down the line,” De Leon said. “I was like, `Is this really happening?”

COMEBACK TRAIL

Reds right-hander Sonny Gray, who began the season on the 10-day injured list with a muscle strain in his back, threw 60 pitches over 4 2/3 innings at the Reds’ alternate training site in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday. “I felt really, really good,” Gray said. “I wanted to treat it like a normal start as much as I could. I was very pleased.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds outfielder Jesse Winker has not played since leaving Saturday’s game with flu-like symptoms. He has not tested positive for COVID-19, according Bell.

UP NEXT

Reds left-hander Wade Miley makes his season debut after injuries limited him to 14 1/3 innings last year, while right-hander Trevor Cahill debuts for the Pirates after signing a one-year deal in March.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.