CINCINNATI — Unexpected stars, unconventional moves, one pleasing win. The David Bell era in Cincinnati got off to an encouraging start for a Reds team trying to finally escape last place.
Pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich connected for a three-run homer in the seventh inning Thursday, and Bell went against the book while closing out a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first game as manager.
The Reds got starring performances from two players signed for backup roles last month. They also ended the game with a relief pitcher playing center field, a sign of Bell’s openness to new ideas.
“You like to try and tell yourself that it’s just one game, but it’s not,” said Bell, whose grandfather and father played for the Reds. “It’s special to the city. It’s a big day.”
Two players signed to minor league deals last month became part of Cincinnati’s opening day lore.
New shortstop Jose Iglesias doubled twice and drove in a run. After Jose Peraza’s homer off Jameson Taillon (0-1) tied it in the seventh, Dietrich put the Reds up 5-2 with his pinch-hit homer off Richard Rodriguez . Dietrich got a curtain call from the crowd of 44,049, the largest for a regular-season game at Great American Ball Park.
Dietrich was known for getting hit by pitches during his six seasons with the Marlins — he set a club record. He never had reason for a curtain call.
“I was taking it all in in the dugout with the guys and they were like, ‘Get up there! Get up there!’” Dietrich said.
Zach Duke (1-0) retired the two batters he faced. Former closer Raisel Iglesias came on in the eighth and gave up a solo homer by Corey Dickerson. Bell replaced him with two on in the ninth, another unconventional move.
David Hernandez loaded the bases with a walk before retiring Dickerson on a grounder, getting his first save since 2017. Dickerson fouled off seven pitches with two strikes to extend the game.
“It’s a great at-bat,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was a pretty epic battle, that late, that kind of situation. They won this one.”
Cincinnati reliever Michael Lorenzen got into the game as a pinch runner in the seventh and played the last two innings in center field. He didn’t have a ball hit his way.
The win opened a notable season for the Reds. Commissioner Rob Manfred was grand marshal of the pregame parade that kicked off baseball’s 150th anniversary celebration of the first all-professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.