MLB Opening Day 2012: 5 Reasons the Cincinnati Reds Looked Like Division Champs

Scott SewellCorrespondent IApril 6, 2012

MLB Opening Day 2012: 5 Reasons the Cincinnati Reds Looked Like Division Champs

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    It's time to get excited. Very excited.

    The 2012 Cincinnati Reds are a legitimate contender to win the NL Central, and their skills were on full display in a dominant 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday.

    This wasn't your typical win. This was a dominant team exerting its power over an inferior team in a way that was impossible to ignore, and here are five reasons why they looked so damn good.

1. Johnny Cueto

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    Seven innings. Three hits. Four strikeouts. Zero runs.

    Hey, Cincinnati, that's what an ace looks like.  

    It's been a long time since the Reds have had a legitimate front-of-the-rotation, top-of-the-league ace, but Johnny Cueto showed why he's arrived yesterday.

    If you need further evidence, then simply go back to the tape, and watch the second pitch of the game. When Cueto has that breaking ball working, he's impossible to hit, and he simply made Jose Reyes look foolish on that swing.

    The last time a Reds pitcher was that dominant on Opening Day? Jose Rijo in 1993.  

    Rijo tossed eight innings, striking out five in a 2-1 victory over Dennis Martinez.

2. Brandon Phillips

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    The Internet is blowing up with the news that Brandon Phillips is on the verge of signing a five-year, $65 million deal within the next week (via Cincinnati.com).

    Judging by his performance on Thursday, that's a very good thing.

    Phillips played the game the right way on Opening Day. Phillips saw a team-high 33 pitches in five plate appearances in the leadoff spot, and that helped set the tone for the rest of the lineup. 

3. Aroldis Chapman

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    Young fella brought the heat!  

    Aroldis Chapman was dazzling in his 2012 debut.

    Throwing just 10 pitches to strike out two in an inning of scoreless work, Chapman showed Reds fan why he will ultimately force Bronson Arroyo out of the Reds rotation this season.

    Until then, we're more than happy to watch him serve as the rock-solid bridge to the ninth inning. In fact, I think we should just start calling him Roebling.

4. Sean Marshall

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    The biggest revelation for me on Thursday was Sean Marshall. I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was that good.

    The big lefty faced three consecutive right-handed batters and made each one look silly.  It took just 11 pitches for Marshall to show that we're not going to miss Ryan Madson too much after all.

5. Scott Rolen

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    I'll admit it—I was a little worried after the error in the first inning. Scott Rolen is clearly playing in his final Opening Day, and he looked like it on that first ground ball. 

    After he got that little mishap out of the way, though, he was the best hitter and fielder in the game.

    Rolen flashed a brilliant glove in the field and showed his veteran smarts by leaning into a pitch to take a free jog to first base. Rolen ultimately "stole" second by advancing on a routine pop fly on a play that most mortals would've just stayed at first on.

    If Rolen is going to play like this, big things are in store for 2012.

     

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