Opening Day is one of the best spectacles in sports. The smell of the food, the cheers of the crowd, and Atlanta is bringing home the World Series Trophy. On Thursday night, the Braves open their 2022 campaign against the Cincinnati Reds at Truist Park. It’s set to be a triumphant return for the team, but there is also business to take care of. Let’s see how they stack up against the Reds.
Max Fried will take the mound for Atlanta on Opening Day, followed by Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright, and Ian Anderson, in that order. Due to a Spring Training rainout, Anderson will start the fourth game rather than the third. From Atlanta’s perspective, I’m most looking forward to Wright’s start in Game 3. He’s looking to build off the momentum from his impressive World Series appearance, where he allowed only one run over 4 2/3 innings in a pivotal Game 4.
Meanwhile, the Reds starters are already struggling with injuries. Tyler Mahle, coming off a superb 2021 season, draws the Opening Day start. Cincinnati figures to have a rotation comprised mostly of rookies while Luis Castillo and Mike Minor deal with injuries.
This offseason saw the Reds lose some major firepower in Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker. Their projected lineup this season has potential, but they need several younger guys to have breakout seasons. Led by Joey Votto and 2021 NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India, the Reds have some power threats but not much depth. A player to watch would be Tyler Stephenson out of Kennesaw Mountain High School, who has shown flashes in his major league career and will get more playing time this season.
On the other side, the Atlanta lineup is absolutely stacked. The additions of Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna make this an even more potent group than the lineup that won the World Series. If Austin Riley has a repeat of 2021, this could be the best lineup in baseball once Ronald Acuña returns.
The gap between the Braves lineup and the Reds lineup is substantial, but the difference in the bullpens is even greater. After losing Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, and Mychal Givens in free agency, the Cincinnati relief core is littered with questions and not many answers. Former Brave Lucas Sims will also be opening the season on the IL. Outside of him, there are not any household names on the roster. It’ll definitely be a point of weakness for the Reds this season.
The Braves, however, are the polar opposite. After adding Kenley Jansen and Collin McHugh to an already intimidating bullpen, the Night Shift has the opportunity to be recognized nationally as the best bullpen in the game. Luke Jackson and Kirby Yates are on the IL at the moment, but even without them, Brian Snitker has an embarrassment of riches to use at the end of the games. If the Braves can jump on teams early this season, it will be nearly impossible for them to come back.
On paper, the Braves hold all the advantages over the Reds. But baseball is unpredictable. That’s the beauty of it. Players can be rusty, especially on opening weekend, so whatever happens, there is no need to panic. Still, I think this Braves lineup can put up a lot of runs against a young pitching staff. I have Atlanta winning three of four, setting the right tone as they aim to repeat as champions.
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