CINCINNATI -- The Reds and Nationals still had a game to play before Sunday's matchup of Washington ace Stephen Strasburg and his Cincinnati counterpart, Johnny Cueto. But that didn't keep folks from talking about the showdown.
Strasburg's appearance will be his first against the Reds since beating them on July 21, 2010, his last win before undergoing Tommy John surgery that cost him most of the 2011 season and led to his innings limit in 2012. Somebody mentioned to Reds manager Dusty Baker before Saturday's game that his team has been lucky to miss the right-handed phenom up to now.
"Maybe he's been one who's been lucky," Baker said with a coy smile.
Baker pointed out that his starter isn't too shabby, either. Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in a league-leading 33 starts last season, and allowed just three hits and one run over seven innings before leaving with a no-decision on Opening Day.
At the same time, Strasburg's talent can't be denied. The No 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, who was shut down after going 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts last season, showed no signs of rust while pitching seven scoreless innings against Miami on Opening Day.
"He's a good one," Baker admitted. "There are other guys you'd pick before him to face, but you can't look too far ahead."
Bruce goes the other way to get his bat going
CINCINNATI -- Lost in Cincinnati's six-homer, 15-run explosion against Washington on Friday night were the two opposite-field doubles logged by struggling Jay Bruce.
The Reds' right fielder went into the game with one hit -- a double off the left-center-field wall on Wednesday -- and seven strikeouts in 13 at-bats. The left-handed batter was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Friday before doubling off the left-center-field wall in each of his last two at-bats.
Those kinds of hits usually indicate that a batter is keeping his head in and not pulling off the ball, which often is a sign that he's breaking out of a slump.
"Everything I've gotten has been to the opposite field," Bruce said before Saturday's game. "I feel fine. It's early."
Manager Dusty Baker learned a long time ago from former Dodgers outfielder Tommy Davis that going the other way can be an effective way to get a bat back on track.
"[Davis] won a couple of batting titles and an RBI title," Baker pointed out. "He told me that going to the off field is a good way to march your way back."
Bruce went 2-for-6 in Saturday's game to raise his average to .208.
Parra finally sees action on the mound
CINCINNATI -- It took three games and six innings, but left-hander Manny Parra finally made his debut in a Reds uniform on Friday night.
Parra, the former Brewer signed by the Reds as a free agent on Feb. 1, took over for starter Homer Bailey in the seventh inning of the Reds' 15-0 bashing of the Nationals. The 30-year-old, five-year veteran wasn't razor sharp, allowing two hits and a walk with one strikeout in two scoreless innings. But he was just happy to finally work.
"I felt good," Parra said before Saturday's game against Washington. "It was amazing to get out there."
Parra admitted to feeling a little nervous, but he was more anxious while observing all of the hoopla that surrounds Opening Day in Cincinnati.
"That first game, I felt it a little bit," Parra said. "As the games go on, you start settling in."
Manager Dusty Baker was satisfied with Parra's effort.
"He was good," Baker said. "He threw strikes. I told him, with the team we have, trust your defense. Walks are like strikeouts. They give you no chance."
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart each hit two home runs in the Reds' 15-0 win over the Nationals on Friday, it was the first time in Reds history (which goes back to the 1800s) that they had multiple-homer games by their starting shortstop and third baseman in the same game.
Frazier and Cozart were the first starting shortstop-third base tandem to each go deep twice in a game for a National League team since the Pirates' Jackie Hernandez and Richie Hebner did that in 1971 for a Pittsburgh team that would go on to win the World Series.
• The 43 strikeouts accumulated so far by Reds pitchers are a franchise record for the first four games of a season. The previous mark of 39 was set in 1990, the year Cincinnati last won the World Series.
• The Reds paid tribute in pregame ceremonies to Washington manager Davey Johnson, who in 1995 led the Reds to their last division championship and postseason appearance before the 2010 team won the NL Central title. That was the last of Johnson's two-plus seasons as Cincinnati's manager.
Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.