by Matt Wilkes

RC+ Recap: Sonny Gray, Reds put a dent in Cubs playoff hopes

If the Cubs wind up missing the playoffs, the Reds will have had a significant role in it.

With a 4-2 win on Tuesday night, the Reds officially won the season series against the Cubs and sent their division rivals into a tie with the Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot.

In true 2019 fashion, the Reds took care of most of their scoring in the first inning. Josh VanMeter singled to lead off the game and came around to score on a blistering double (104.0 mph) down the right-field line by Joey Votto. Two batters later, Aristides Aquino sent his 16th home run of the season (101.0 mph, 388 feet) into the Wrigley Field bleachers. It was Aquino’s first dinger since September 2, and it was actually his second-hardest hit of the night.

The starting pitchers, however, were the big stories of the night. Yu Darvish struck out 13 Reds hitters, including a Cubs record eight in a row at one point. Sonny Gray kept his incredible second half going by allowing two runs and striking out nine in 6.2 innings. The Reds right-hander allowed only four hits, extending his streak with six or fewer hits allowed to 32 games to set the all-time record. Nolan Ryan was the previous record holder.

Gray went with a heavy breaking ball approach against the Cubs’ potent lineup. Sixty percent of his 102 pitches were curveballs and sliders, his highest rate in a game this season. The Cubs did very little with either pitch, managing only one hit on 11 balls in play while averaging an exit velocity of 83.0 mph on the curveball and 85.5 on the slider. Gray also had his highest-swinging strike rate (23.1%) of the season on his two-seam fastball.

When Gray hit the wall in the seventh inning by allowing a walk and a single with two outs, Michael Lorenzen backed up his teammate by striking out Nicholas Castellanos. Lorenzen also pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit and striking out another batter. For all the talk of Lorenzen’s hitting and defense, he has improved tremendously on the mound in 2019. He has a career-best strikeout rate (24.5%) and his best ERA, FIP, and xFIP since 2016. His .278 xwOBA is a career low as well.

Raisel Iglesias slammed the door on the Cubs with a perfect ninth inning. He struck out two but got only two swings and misses on 17 pitches. Rather than blowing hitters away, Iglesias was simply painting the edges of the zone with his fastball and changeup.

Reds Most Valuable Players

  • Michael Lorenzen: .167 WPA (Win Probability Added)
  • Sonny Gray: .157 WPA
  • Joey Votto: .141 WPA

Reds Least Valuable Players

  • Phillip Ervin: -.067 WPA
  • Tucker Barnhart: -.065 WPA
  • Jose Peraza: -.060 WPA

Play of the Game

  • Aristides Aquino: .142 WPA | Two-run home run in 1st inning

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Eugenio Suarez: 108.5 mph single in 5th inning
  • Aristides Aquino: 106.4 mph fielder’s choice in 8th inning
  • Joey Votto: 104.0 mph double in 1st inning

Luckiest Hit of the Day

  • Eugenio Suarez: 94.6 mph, -2° LA; Single in 8th inning

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Jose Peraza: .600 xBA, 94.6 mph, 9° LA; Lineout in 5th inning

Highest Pitch Velocities by Pitcher

  • Michael Lorenzen: 99.5 mph four-seam fastball
  • Raisel Iglesias: 97.7 mph sinker
  • Sonny Gray: 94.6 mph two-seam fastball


Matt Wilkes got hooked on Reds baseball after attending his first game in Cinergy Field at 6 years old, and he hasn’t looked back. As a kid, he was often found imitating his favorite players — Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns — in the backyard. When he finally went inside, he was leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 or keeping stats for whatever game was on TV. He started writing about baseball in 2014 and has become fascinated by analytics and all the new data in the game. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in Columbus. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.

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1 year ago

Suarez’s 8th inning RBI single may have been metrically lucky, but his 5th inning single was great. He did exactly what he wanted to do with a very effective Yu Darvish: he shortened his swing, and “hit it where they ain’t,” taking what Darvish gave him. It gave the Reds an important add-on run late. The Reds need much, much, much more of this kind of baseball. They would not have lost 30 or so 1-run games if they were better at situational hitting.

Suarez hit a bit of a lull in mid-August, where he went 5-for-30 or so with two separate Golden Sombreros. It looked to me like he was getting pull-happy, trying to hit homers. He did continue to hit homers, but did nothing else. Then, against I think Miami, he got a couple of solid hits to right field, and I knew he was back on track.