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Emotions riding high as Reds host Cardinals in series finale

Apr 1, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) scores against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) scores against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It took just two games for the rivalry between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals to reach midseason form.

After benches cleared during Saturday’s contest, look for both teams to receive warnings before Sunday’s rubber match of the three-game series in Cincinnati.

The Reds evened the series with a 9-6 win on Saturday, but not before St. Louis reliever Jake Woodford hit Nick Castellanos with a 92-mph fastball in the fourth inning.

After staring at the mound, Castellanos took his base and eventually scored on a wild pitch, staring and flexing at Woodford after sliding in under his tag.

Both dugouts emptied and Castellanos was ejected for the first time in his career, but no punches were thrown and order was restored after a few minutes.

“Tempers were flaring,” said Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle. “It’s baseball. Guys were playing the game hard.”

Castellanos could face a suspension but will likely be active Sunday, which is good news for the Reds. The 29-year-old outfielder has carried his hot streak from spring training into the season with four hits in his first seven at-bats, including a two-run homer.

The Cardinals are hoping for a lengthy outing on Sunday from Carlos Martinez after their first two starters — Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright — allowed a combined 12 runs in seven innings.

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Martinez was limited to five starts last season due to COVID-19 and an oblique injury but appears fully healthy this spring. The 29-year-old owns an 8-5 record and 4.07 ERA in 30 career games (13 starts) against Cincinnati.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto is 2-for-10 to start the season and has just four hits in 29 career at-bats against Martinez.

St. Louis may have to wait for its pitching to catch up to its explosive offense. Paul Goldschmidt went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles in Thursday’s 11-6 win before the production slowed a bit on Saturday.

The Cardinals struck out 13 times in the loss but saw Nolan Arenado homer for the first time for his new team. Shortstop Paul DeJong added two solo blasts for his third career multi-homer game.

Manager Mike Shildt was also encouraged by the performance of reliever Jordan Hicks, who retired the side in order in the seventh in his first appearance since June 2019. The former closer is being eased back into action following Tommy John surgery.

Jeff Hoffman is set to make his Cincinnati debut after being acquired from Colorado last November. The 28-year-old went 2-1 with 9.28 ERA in 16 relief appearances for the Rockies last season.

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Hoffman earned a spot in the rotation in place of Sonny Gray, who is sidelined due to back spasms. He hopes to return by mid-April.

“He’s doing well,” manager David Bell said. “All indications are he’s on track. It’s just a matter of time. We don’t have a date set. His next step will be in Louisville at the alternate site.”

The Reds also received positive news about center fielder Nick Senzel, who exited Thursday’s game with a left shoulder injury but appeared as a pinch hitter on Saturday and remained in the game.

–Field Level Media