Stifled by Hellickson, Votto, Reds rally to sink Phillies

Stifled by Hellickson, Votto, Reds rally to sink Phillies

CINCINNATI -- Zack Cozart went 3-for-3 and delivered the tying run in the eighth before Joey Votto's two-run single in the five-run inning lifted the Reds to a 6-2 Opening Day victory over the Phillies at Great American Ball Park.

Philadelphia carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth when reliever David Hernandez loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and Scott Schebler's pinch-hit double. Lefty James Russell took over, and Cozart skied a sacrifice fly to short right field. Pinch-runner Tyler Holt scored on a headfirst slide just ahead of Peter Bourjos' throw. Russell walked Eugenio Suarez to load the bases for Votto.

Taking a 0-for-3, three-strikeout day into the at-bat, Votto made that a fleeting memory by lining Russell's 1-1 pitch into center field for the game-winner. Jay Bruce blew it open with a bases-loaded single that added two more runs, as nine men batted in the bottom of the eighth.

Votto's two-run go-ahead single

"Everybody makes this big deal about Opening Day. In the standings, it could be the least important day of the year," Bruce said. "But it's awesome to get that win and get the momentum going the right way. Especially coming back, the way we won was great. I think it shows everyone we're capable of coming back and stealing a game from guys."

Bruce's two-run single

Cozart had all three of his hits vs. Jeremy Hellickson, while the rest of the Reds' lineup went hitless vs. the Phillies' starter. But the Philadelphia bullpen could not maintain that success in the late innings, while the Reds' three scoreless innings of relief made it possible for Cincinnati to battle back and win.

"It was embarrassing," Hernandez said after loading the bases to start the eighth. "I wasn't able to throw anything over the plate, quality pitches. It's unfortunate."

Big day for Cozart: In his first regular-season game since blowing out his right knee on June 10, also vs. the Phillies, Cozart came back in strong fashion with three hits. After his leadoff double in the first, he scored an unearned run when first baseman Ryan Howard dropped a throw from shortstop Freddy Galvis on Suarez's grounder. It gave Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.

Cozart's perfect day at the dish

"I felt great physically, so that's a positive," Cozart said. "I think getting that first hit calmed me down a little bit. It's the same game I've been playing forever. It's just been a while since I've played." More >

Hellickson's first impression: The Phillies acquired Hellickson from the D-backs in November because they thought he could stabilize the rotation and return to form in a free agent year. He looked like that guy, allowing three hits, one unearned run and striking out six in six innings in his Phils debut.

Hellickson's Phillies debut

"Hellickson pitched really, really well, then the wheels fell off in that eighth inning," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. More >

Galvis steps up: The pressure is on Galvis, who has top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford breathing down his neck. Galvis will need to play well this season to keep a job. He got started the right way. He hit a two-run home run to right field in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. He also turned an inning-ending double play in the third inning.

Galvis' two-run homer

Iglesias looks good: Raisel Iglesias allowed the leadoff batter to get a hit in four of his six innings, but it was still a strong performance with two earned runs, six hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. In a 13-pitch first inning, he threw 11 strikes and retired the side in order following a hit to begin the game. In his final inning, one of the perfect frames he had, Iglesias needed only six pitches.

Iglesias' strong start

"All of a sudden Galvis hits the home run to give them a 2-1 lead, it's kind of like, 'Oh man,'" Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Hellickson threw a great ballgame and he was very sharp. How much wiggle room do you really have after being down 2-1? I thought [Iglesias] handled that really well. He made big pitches and gave us six innings, when at times it looked like it would be a challenge to get through four with his pitch count. He clutched up for us big time there and got us through six."

"I hope that the right guys are here right now. I'm not going to condemn Hernandez because he didn't pitch that well tonight. He's going to get more opportunities. We'll continue through the season and we'll see who rises to the occasion." -- Mackanin, on the Phillies' bullpen woes

Votto struck out three times in his first three at-bats. It was the first time he struck out in each of his first three plate appearances since May 15, 2014, against the Padres' Tyson Ross.

Hellickson became just the ninth pitcher to strike out Votto three times in one game, according to Stats Inc.

Hellickson ends threat in 6th

Mesoraco OK
In the fifth inning, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco was hit in the head by the follow-through on Maikel Franco's swing. The bat got under the mask of Mesoraco, who needed a few moments to collect himself. He was checked out by head trainer Steve Baumann before staying in the game. After the game, the catcher said he was doing fine.

"I know I felt it pretty good there for a second," Mesoraco said. "He hit me right in the temple; that's where I felt it."

Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Nola had been considered for the Opening Day start, but the Phillies will have him pitch the second game of the season Wednesday night against the Reds at 7:10 p.m. ET. It allows Nola to pitch the home opener next Monday against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. Nola has never faced the Reds in his brief career.

Reds: Following Tuesday's day off, Brandon Finnegan will get the ball for Game 2 of the season vs. the Phillies on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. Finnegan struggled in the latter half of camp and posted a 10.05 ERA in six spring games, including five starts. This will be the left-hander's fifth career regular-season start, after a four-start debut last season.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.