The Cincinnati Reds season got out to a good start as Sonny Gray dominated the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day as the team picked up the win and moved to 1-0. But things took a quick turn as the bullpen imploded multiple times over the next few days and along with some other issues, the Reds lost four straight games. When Sonny Gray returned to the mound he was ready to do his part to put an end to the losing streak and get things going.

“I just knew we needed to come out with a little more fire and a little more energy and a little more give a s**t in this game,” said Gray. “That was my whole thing with tonight, I was just telling the boys we’re coming to play today. Let’s go play a baseball game, let’s go win a baseball game. That was it.”

“We’ve had a couple of tough game, we’ve had a couple of tough things not go our way. I just wanted today to be about ‘we need to put everything else we’ve got going on, whether it’s not having guys, losing close games, whatever it is, it’s irrelevant when we step on the field tonight’ and that was it. “

Things got ignited pretty early in the game, too. After Kris Bryant grounded out to lead off the game, Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch. Sonny Gray came back and struck out Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber to end the inning. And on his way back to the Reds dugout, he had some words with Rizzo. Mark Slaughter of WLWT in Cincinnati caught the interaction after the inning was over.

“I think that was just some competitors competing,” Gray said of the back-and-forth. “But yes, I definitely wanted to try and ignite something. I definitely wanted everyone to know that we’re here to play tonight. We’re not gonna sit back and just get our butts kicked. We’re here to play.”

Here to play they were. The Cincinnati bats came through in a big way behind the return to the lineup of Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas – both of whom homered in the game. Gray was strong, too, allowing just one hit and one walk in 6.2 innings with 11 strikeouts before leaving the game after 92 pitches (63 strikes) and with a 9-0 lead.

“I feel like I probably could’ve finished, but he (manager David Bell) left it open for me there and I gave him the ball. That was something he came out, I gave him the ball – it wasn’t he asked me how I was doing, if I could have kept going – that was one of those decisions, I gave him the ball and turned it over to the bullpen. But he was leaving the option open for me there.”

While some have gotten quite angry over the fact that the Reds have not let their starting pitchers go deeper into games this year, the simple fact is that teams just aren’t allowing it to happen. The amount of time to get back to the season simply wasn’t enough, and the Reds have been far more lenient with how deep their starters are pitching than any other team in baseball. The San Francisco Giants, for example, have played six games this season. Tonight saw Johnny Cueto throw 87 pitches. That was the first time a Giants pitcher topped 70 this season. The Reds have had four of their six starts throw 90+ pitches.

“I feel like DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson) challenged me one time during this quarantine. We were back home in Nashville and I hadn’t started throwing or anything and he was kind of like ‘I’m not gonna let you just jump right into it, youv’e got to be ready’ – he basically said like, if you don’t get start you’re not going to be ready,” said Gray after the game on Wednesday. “So I took that as a challenge during quarantine and then I tried to get ready. So I started throwing al ittle bit more, I started getting more on a baseball routine, I started committing my time, my energy, and just my time to baseball. I started doing it twice a week, three times a week, four times a week  – I just feel like he challenged me and I just wanted to get ready for the season.

I would like to, as we keep going, I do want to work my way into getting deeper – say it’s a 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 game tonight, there’s no way I come out of that game. I think we’re almost there to where the leash should be open to just go out there and throw. But it is also something you have to, it is closely monitored because it was very quick getting to 90, 100 pitches and I feel like I’m almost there to just go.”

Sonny Gray isn’t quite there yet for a “full starters workload”, but he says he’s close. Last night he has given the option to stay in and he handed the ball to the manager. With a 9-0 lead that’s a move that makes sense for both the pitcher and the manager. The bullpen woes continues to be both painful and disastrous, but the Cubs had their own bullpen issues that the Reds took advantage of and the game was never truly in doubt, even if it felt that way given how the season had played out to that point.

28 Responses

  1. Vada

    Hopefully this attitude will be as contagious as COVID-19. Attitudes win games as well as lose them. May a winning attitude be as contagious as the virus among the ENTIRE Reds organization: top to bottom.

  2. Dan

    God I hope Sonny Gray is a Red for a long time. What a class act.

    • Tomn

      Ditto! Sign him to an extension if we haven’t already.

      He’s a leader in all ways: Performance, Getting the troops going … He’s a winner.

  3. Gonzo Reds

    Win tonight and we’re just a game out of first place before heading on our first road trip of the season. Big one!

  4. Mark Moore

    Big win. Even a split with a win tonight would be great given the weekend. Then I’m hoping this “fire” stays hot going up I-75 to Detroit (perhaps stop and genuflect at that unique statue just north of the city?)

    And Doug, I saw a bunch of comments got thrown into moderation. No biggie. I know you’re trying to get to the bottom of it.

  5. Klugo

    If I’ve said it once , I’ve said it a million times in one form or another… this guys competitiveness is off the charts. 2nd to none. And this team has needed that for a bit now. I’d say since Scott Rolen, we haven’t had that kind of leadership. I think Moose has it too.

  6. RedsFan11

    Was at his first career start as a Red, a balmy 38 degree March Sunday afternoon. Then the amazing 8 inning performance against the Brewers on a muggy hot Wednesday July night (maintain best Reds game to have been at since 2013).

    One was a loss, one was a win, but each performance you could see the dedication and drive to win while lifting up his teammates. He has quickly become one of my favorite Reds and hopefully is becoming a leader among this pitching staff and team.

    • Wayne Nabors

      Was at that july 3rd game also and was there the next day to for double shutouts

  7. Elliott

    Love the swagger/energy/confidence, whatever you want to call it that Sonny is bringing. His body language said I’m the best player out here and his performance backed it up. Helps everyone loosen up when that guys on your side. Hope Castillo keeps it going today

  8. Chris

    “While some have gotten quite angry over the fact that the Reds have not let their starting pitchers go deeper into games this year, the simple fact is that teams just aren’t allowing it to happen. The amount of time to get back to the season simply wasn’t enough, and the Reds have been far more lenient with how deep their starters are pitching than any other team in baseball.”

    That statement above is completely out of context with reality. The fact is, the Red’s pitchers have pitched outstanding in those 4 games, which is why their pitch counts got into the 90’s. You asked me earlier about this, and I proved it to you, by listing name after name with similar results; the 1st day of baseball. The fact is, Bell is a sheep, and is doing what other managers NOW do. As for Gray’s comments, if you watch the interview, he clearly was making sure NOT to throw his manager under the bus. Just watch the interview, Gray literally stutters when asked the question.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m not going to argue with you, Chris, because evidence doesn’t matter to you.

    • John C.

      If you watched the interaction between Bell and Gray on the mound it was obvious that Bell went out to see how he was doing. It was only after talking to Gray did he actually take the ball.

  9. SultanofSwaff

    It would take an injury to not see him in the top 3 Cy Young voting the way he’s going now. Easy to dream on our our top 3 starting a 3 game first round playoff series–who wouldn’t like our chances there?

    The bullpen attrition is happening before our eyes, better now than later. Raley was a stretch to begin with, Reed doesn’t seem to have evolved beyond being just a thrower…..unfortunate, and possibly easy to see it clicking for him down the road with another team who can give him a long look. With the expanded rosters, I can easily say I’d rather have Santillan and Greene in the bullpen as the whole LOOGY thing is irrelevant. If we’re truly in it to win it, service time and all that is also irrelevant—best players, period. To that end, I want India over JVM.

    • tomn

      I had high hopes for Reed a few years ago, but he just hasn’t evolved. Still seems like a wild thrower. Is he immune to suggestions? Has he tried changing his delivery and it didn’t work? Has no one worked with him? I think he could be good but it isn’t happening.

  10. tomn

    This team has a leader – Sonny Gray! Three if you include Moustakas and Votto. But Sonny set the tone apparently last night and the team responded.

    • Hal

      Define leader and depending on the answer I may say Castellanos is a better leader than Votto. Votto is not a vocal leader at all whereas Castellanos is full of fire. Regardless, I am glad all 4 are Reds.

      • Tom Reeves

        Votto leads through the standards he sets for himself. But, he doesn’t appear to be a in-game leader like Gray, Moose, and Castellanos. That doesn’t discount Votto as a leader – it simply proves there’s different sorts of leadership and there’s all necessary. The first person a leader had to lead is themselves and Votto is exceptional at it.

    • Da bear

      You’re mistaking leadership for performance. Who gives a crap about leadership. What the Reds have are 3 Cy Young candidates on this staff. Adequate albeit streaky hitting. Which means make the playoffs….then hope for the best. With 3 pitching aces, the Reds chances are as good as the Dodgers and Yankees in the post season.

      What Aki and Moose bring most importantly….mitigating the streakiness of Reds hitting which too often is dependent upon the long ball.

      • KDJ

        An attitude of winning and an attitude of losing are real, and they impact outcomes. You may not believe a random Reds fan, but you can find some interesting Johnny Bench stories to illustrate this.

  11. Eric the Red

    Is there any easy way to check pitcher/catcher combos without having to go through the game logs game by game? I ask because it has seemed like Casali has been Gray’s designated catcher (for excellent reasons), but with Tucker last night he was extremely efficient so he could go deeper into the game while still striking out a lot of batters.

    I’m curious whether that was just one of those things that happens, or if there’s any evidence for the idea that Gray pitches differently when he’s throwing to Tucker. In the absence of data, I’m certainly interested in the perspectives of our very knowledgeable community!

    • Mark Moore

      Interesting point. The era of “personal catchers” really has gone, but it should reflect best statistical results if it can.

    • Doug Gray

      Baseball Reference has this in their splits data. Or at least they used to (I haven’t checked this year, but assume that it’s still there).

      • Eric the Red

        Thanks Doug. It took me a while to find it, but you’re absolutely right—it’s there. And the answer is: Sonny Gray does best when pitching to Juan Graterol.

        More seriously, my memory was faulty in that Gray actually threw more innings to Tucker than to Casali last year, although with slightly better numbers to Casali. I couldn’t figure out whether there was an “efficiency” difference just looking at the splits data. Bottom line is that Sonny Gray is very good no matter who he is throwing to, although maybe we should carry Graterol on the playoff roster just in case.

  12. Old-school

    Hope they play tonight. It’s a soaker.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m on game thread duty tonight and I’m not feeling confident….

  13. RedNat

    I have been a reds fan for a ling time and i tell you, yesterday, i was never prouder. Moustakas and Senzel appealing to play ball game and both homering. Gray holding the cubs scoreless. Looks like our bullpen may be or limiting factor for winning the division but my word, i just love the attitude

  14. seadog

    Miley to the IL. Ugh. Maybe Antone gets a start?