GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Both the Indians and Reds were ousted from the postseason earlier than the ballclubs hoped last season. Their respective quests to carry their seasons deeper into October began under clear skies at Goodyear Ballpark on Wednesday afternoon.
The Cactus League opener between the Ohio rivals served as the starting line for two of Major League Baseball's four Wild Card winners from last year. With an 8-3 victory over the Tribe, Cincinnati delivered the first strike in the first of three straight spring games with Cleveland.
Speedster Billy Hamilton opened the contest by drawing a walk against Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is vying for a rotation job this spring. Hamilton promptly stole second base, forcing a throwing error by catcher Yan Gomes in the process, and advanced to third on the play. That is as far as Hamilton's legs got him, though.
"Hamilton had a really good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "So I thought Trevor came out of the chute throwing the ball pretty well, and then he had a walk. Walks lead to runs. Gomer kind of saved him."
Bauer issued two walks in his one-inning performance but escaped unscathed. After also walking Brandon Phillips, Bauer struck out Reds first baseman Joey Votto and watched Gomes throw out Phillips on a stolen-base attempt. Jay Bruce followed with a flyout to left field to put the finishing touch on Bauer's afternoon.
"I felt good. My body felt good. It's good to get back out there in game situations," Bauer said. "It's just getting my feet wet and getting used to seeing hitters in the box and having the defense behind you. ... I got to work with some guys in scoring position, which I would've preferred not to, but I got it all today."
In the third inning, Votto made up for his first at-bat with a single to center off lefty T.J. House that scored Brayan Pena from second base. Votto later crossed the plate on a base hit to left field by Ryan Ludwick, pushing Cincinnati to a 2-0 advantage.
Reds starter Alfredo Simon made the start and turned in two hitless innings.
"All of my pitches were working really good," Simon said ."I just tried to throw the first pitch for a strike and then keep going. I worked on my two-seamer. It was working really good."
Cleveland right-hander Aaron Harang -- competing against Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Shaun Marcum and Bauer for the fifth rotation spot this spring -- logged one 13-pitch inning against his former team. Harang then went out to the bullpen to get his workload up to 25 pitches, and felt good about the day's work.
"It's always nice to get that first one out of the way," Harang said. "I'll have a few days off and go out there for a few more. I think the biggest thing with working on stuff is that's what your bullpen sessions are for. When you get out in game situations, you've just got to get it done."
"I thought Harang was sharp," Francona said. "I thought he was crisp. ... It's the first day of Spring Training, their first time competing. But the quicker [pitchers] can get comfortable attacking the zone, the better off everybody will be."
The Indians erased their two-run deficit in the fifth inning, when Ryan Raburn pulled a pitch from Reds pitcher Tim Crabbe into deep left field for a double. Cleveland catching prospect Tony Wolters then came through with an RBI single to cut Cincinnati's lead to 2-1. Later in the inning, David Adams grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, pulling the game into a tie.
Facing Indians lefty Colt Hynes in the sixth inning, Tucker Barnhart drew a bases-loaded walk and Donald Lutz added a run-scoring groundout to put Cincinnati back on top.
In the seventh, Chris Heisey hit a two-run homer off Indians relief prospect C.C. Lee.
Up next: Carlos Santana will make his Cactus League debut at third base for the Indians on Thursday, when Cleveland takes on the Reds in a 3:05 p.m. ET tilt at Goodyear Ballpark. Santana is working on a transition from catching to third base this spring. Rotation leader Justin Masterson is slated to start for the Tribe and center fielder Michael Bourn will likely get in the lineup for the first time this spring. Watch the game live on MLB.TV or listen to an exclusive free webcast on Indians.com.