Sonny Gray knew Thursday night’s game against the Nationals was only seven innings because a suspended game had to be caught in the afternoon. Gray was determined to keep the pressure on opposing hitters.
“Every thought of the day was to challenge the guys and pitch seven innings,” said Gray. “I kept saying, ‘Throw seven innings, don’t give up any points and we win the game.’”
Gray didn’t need the two insurance runs the Reds roster gave him at the start of the fifth inning at Nationals Park. Sure, he happily took the boost, but he dominated the Nationals all night in Cincinnati’s 3-0 win, a victory that gave the club two-of-three in the series.
In his best performance of 2021, Gray provided six innings with two hits, one walk and five strikeouts while throwing 90 pitches. Lucas Sims got the last set and made his third save by taking the team out in order.
It was Gray’s first win of the season, and he’s now 1-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight starts.
“Sonny was off, carried us the whole way, and then Lucas came in and slammed the door,” Reds left fielder Jesse Winker said. “It was fun playing behind Sonny, man. It was electric.
Here’s a breakdown of Gray’s Night in numbers:
3 – The number of balls that left the Washington batting infield while Gray was throwing.
5 – The total ground takedowns that were sent back to the mound for Gray.
“I was trying to be a baseball player, I had my pants up and I was trying to play baseball,” Gray joked.
15 – The total number of cursors Gray threw out of 90 shots in the game. He leaned more into the field than usual, especially at the start. He scored nine goals.
“It’s the best my slider has been of all year. I had a lot of outs with that. I was throwing it out for strikes, ”Gray said. “I wasn’t just throwing that shitty, twisty pitch that’s a ball in the left-handed batter’s box all the time. I just trusted him in the area.
8 – Combined total of strikes called on Gray’s fastball and four-seam shot. The two terrains averaged 93 mph.
“When a guy is like that you have to be ready early in the count and be ready to hit a fast pitch,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “When we take them for strikes, it’s hard. All of a sudden now you’re hitting with two hits at the bat, and then it’s really hard.
Ahead of the game against Stephen Strasburg, Eugenio Suárez gave the Reds a 1-0 lead by hitting a 3-1 center-right pitch for a home run – his second in the series and 11th overall.
In the Reds’ fifth round, Cincinnati got lucky. With one out and at bat for himself, Gray slapped a Strasbourg foot returning back in the air for a single and rushed to first base.
“My uncle, Ralph, he texted me two games ago and I kicked like a ball on the ground until the second and I was just running to the first,” Gray said. . “He texted me after the game, he basically said, ‘Run your [butt] right down to first base, that’s what got you there. You hit the ball, you run. I was kind of like, I just said, ‘OK. Yes sir. OKAY. I go.’ ”
After a two-out march towards Suárez, Winker hit a ball in the middle. Shortstop Trea Turner looked set to line him up cleanly until he jumped the sack on second base for an RBI single that scored Gray. Next was Tyler Naquin, who blooped a ball that landed just inside the left-field foul line for an RBI brace and a three-point lead to Cincinnati.
“Anytime you can add, whether it’s one or two, against a guy like Strasbourg, it’s huge. Sonny was off. Once we get up, 3-0, you go out and play if that happens to you, ”Winker said.
After a single with an out by Juan Soto in the first inning, Gray struck out 16 of his next 17 batters with only one inside strike by Turner allowed in the third inning. After this blow, he retired nine times in a row.
The Nationals scored their only goal with two strikeouts in the sixth by Soto, but Gray gloved a hot 115.8 mph rush towards Josh Bell’s mound to maintain his shutout. The bullet also caught some of Gray’s fingers on his hand, causing them to sting a bit.
That’s when manager David Bell decided to give the ball to the Sims for the seventh inning.
“There was a possibility that Sonny would leave,” Bell said. “I think that made the decision easier for me. I spoke to Sonny. He was in a little pain. I think it’s really, even for a pitcher, a little shocking to get hit a ball so hard.
After a 1-6 home game, the Reds earned two road wins, beating Strasbourg and Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
“I think a lot of good things have happened this series to be able to win two of three against this team,” said Bell.