by Steve Mancuso

Sonny Gray dominates, bats erupt for 12-7 win

The Reds got what they needed with a 12-7 win over the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs had pummeled Reds pitching for two nights. On Monday, they destroyed Reds starter Wade Miley. Last night it was the collective bullpen. The Reds needed a pitching performance to keep them in the game while waiting for the bats to ignite. They received that start from Sonny Douglas Gray.

Gray followed his terrific Opening Day performance with an even better start against a much tougher lineup. Gray threw 92 pitches over 6.2 innings. He gave up one hit, a double in the 5th inning and a walk in the 7th. In the 1st inning, Anthony Rizzo stuck his leg into the strike zone and was nipped by a pitch. That’s all Gray gave up all night. He recorded 11 strikeouts, including striking out the side in the 3rd and 6th inning.

The Reds bats seemed energized by the return of Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart. In the bottom of the 4th, Eugenio Suarez walked and Mike Moustakas got things rolling with a 3-2, 382-foot blast to right field off a Kyle Hendricks changeup. Moustakas had lined out hard his first time up. At that point, Suarez had only one hit in the 2020 season, but this walk was his 5th of the year. It doubled the value of the Moustakas homer.

The Reds blew it open the next inning with a 7-run 5th inning. Freddy Galvis singled down the right field line. Shogo Akiyama smacked a ball over the head of the Cubs CF that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double. If the ball had stayed in the park, Galvis would have scored and Akiyama would have had a triple. After Joey Votto got to a 2-0 count, the Cubs walked him intentionally to load the bases.

Suarez delivered a bloop single to left center for two runs. Akiyama did a great job of judging the ball and scored from second. The early returns on him indicate he’s going to be a great base runner. Moustakas walked to reload the bases. Nick Castellanos followed with a 420-foot homer that put the Reds up 8-0.

Nick Senzel got his first hit of the season later in the inning with a solo shot to left field. 9-0 Reds.

Gray pitched into the 7th inning. He got an out, gave up a walk, then Eugenio Suarez made a throwing error to first. Gray struck out Albert Almora for the second out. Manager David Bell lifted Gray for Brooks Raley. Raley proceed to give up a walk, then a run on a HBP. The Cubs, who had made wholesale substitutions, got a single and double to make the score 9-5. Raley walked another batter and Bell brought in Lucas Sims who retired Steven Souza on a popup.

The Reds added three insurance runs in the bottom of the 7th with a bunch of walks, an error by the Cubs and a double by Nick Senzel. Sims pitched a shutout 8th. Cody Reed pitched the 9th and gave up a 2-run homer. With few exceptions, the bullpen continues to be terrible.

Most Valuable Players
  • Sonny Gray .289 Win Probability Added
  • Mike Moustakas .171 WPA
  • Eugenio Suarez .101 WPA
Hardest-Hit Balls
  • Nick Senzel 105 mph | double
  • Eugenio Suarez 104.4 mph | force out
  • Nick Castellanos 103.7 mph | home run
  • Nick Senzel: 99.9 mph | home run
Highest Velocities by Pitcher
  • Cody Reed 96.9 mph
  • Sonny Gray 95.4 mph
  • Lucas Sims 94.6 mph
  • Brooks Raley 90.7 mph
Luckiest Hit of the Day
  • Nick Senzel 99.9 mph, 21% hit probability, home run
Unluckiest Out of the Day
  • Nick Castellanos 97.4 mph, 60% hit probability, line out
What’s Next?

One of the best pitching matchups of the season will take place on Thursday, as the Reds and Cubs close out the four-game series at 6:10 pm at GABP. Luis Castillo goes for the Reds and Yu Darvish for the stupid Cubs.

I’m gonna type this really slow for effect, in his final 17 starts (106 IP) last year, Yu Darvish struck out 148 and walked 12 batters. 

These numbers are from 2019. Darvish had a lousy start to the year and was dynamite from June until the end. Maybe the best pitcher in baseball over that stretch. 

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.


  • Mike Bittenbender

    Steve, is it too soon for an article looking at trade targets for pen improvements and what we would have to surrender to improve? I like Sims and Garrett. Iggy I think will be fine. I’d consider using Mahle late and am hopeful for Jones and Bob Steve when he gets healthy but the pen is going to have to be better or Bell will be forced to work the starters into the ground.

    • pinson343

      I know you want Steve’s reply but I thought I’d pipe in. It’s not too soon for the article you suggest, especially for LHed reIief. But it’s too soon for the Reds to be committed to giving up talent to bolster the pen. Lorenzen might settle down soon, he became a mainstay of the bullpen last season and has a good arm and good stuff (for now I would definitely avoid using him in high leverage situations). Strop has been pretty good so far, he may have regained form.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Mike, my sense is it’s too early for that. Not from the standpoint of need. Though I do expect Iglesias, Lorenzen, Garrett, Stephenson and Sims to be solid. We’ll have to see about Strop and Jones. Reed has talent, but can’t seem to execute. The Reds could always use another reliever or two. They have De Leon, Bowman and Kuhnel in reserve. Choosing a reliever is complicated, because they are so erratic. Add to that the market right now would be terrible for buyers. It’s definitely an important thing to contemplate. Just not easy to fix for a variety of reasons.

  • kmartin

    The return of Moustakas to the lineup has me thinking again about a question I have had for several years. Has anyone at RC+ seen any research on what I will call the “multiplicative effect” of a player in the lineup? Let me try to make this more precise. Assume we have a metric measuring the run generating ability of a player. Perhaps something like RC or wRC+. Now add the RC (or whatever metric we choose) for each player in a lineup. Let X be that sum. Now remove a good hitter from this lineup (e.g. Moustakas, or Votto, etc.) with an RC of Y and replace him with a weaker hitter with an RC of Z, where Z is less than Y. The sum for the new lineup is X + (Z – Y) which is now less than X. My intuition is that there is some sort of multiplicative effect of removing a good hitter from the lineup and that the new lineup run producing capability is actually less than X + (Z – Y). It seems plausible that the run producing capability of the entire lineup may not be strictly a linear function of the run producing capability of the individual players in the lineup but that there are nonlinear (multiplicative) terms that are significant.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I don’t play the gambling style of fantasy baseball, but I’m vaguely familiar with their concept of stacking – which is a multiplier idea of sorts. I think that’s more about lineup strategy than the measured value of a player. The metrics we have now, wRC+ for instance, do account for present and forward impacts. A single is weighted for the ability to drive in runs and also to be on base so you can be driven in. Isolating a player’s value from what his teammates do is an important goal of sabermetrics. I’m not sure that answers your question.

  • pinson343

    Your comment reminds me of something that I’ve been thinking about for years, though in a slightly different context. A fundamental limitation of WAR is that it’s a linear measure of a player’s value. A player’s value depends on who else is on the active roster. This is easist to think about in terms of relief pitchers. If you already have 3 stud relief pitchers, getting a 4th one is nice but he won’t add nearly as much value to that team as one which is desperate for such a pitcher.
    You introduce a more subtle non-linear factor.

    Of course a problem with both potential adjustments is that while trying to measure the productivity of an individual player, we’re introducing the performance of teammates as a factor. But such measures could complement, rather than replace, linear measures.

  • pinson343

    I don’t generally write comments that second guess a manager’s in-game decisions, especially with respect to bullpen moves. I’m glad there’s so little of that here, but I am going to criticize Bell for letting a relief pitcher who clearly didn’t have it give up most of a 9 run lead by leaving him in to face 5 batters. By the time Sims was brought in, if he allows Souza to get on base, then he’d be facing Schwarber as the potential tying run. And Sims’ first 3 pitches were balls, luckily Souza swung at the 3rd one.
    It wasn’t even a matter of getting a lefty-lefty matchup after the first hitter.

    That would have been a historically devastating loss, Bell has to do a better job of keeping a game under control with a late huge lead.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I understand the frustration with the situation. I don’t understand why Raley is on the roster. But here are a couple stats to put the lead/managing in perspective. When Raley entered the game, the Reds win probability was 99.8%. After he had faced five batters, when Bell lifted him, the win probability was 94.0%.

  • pinson343

    Steve, Yes but another way to look at those numbers is to calculate the loss probability, which went from 0.2% to 6%, increasing by a factor of more than 10.

    And does the 94% number factor in that Schwarber, not some random guy, was up next facing a RHed pitcher, that the Reds bullpen has been terrible, etc. I don’t buy it that if Sims walks Souza, the Cubs only have a 6% chance of winning.

    You don’t want for no reason to give a team you’ve already beaten a realistic chance to win. Dusty Baker was a master of that, and even he in those situations would not allow the struggling reliever to face more than 4 batters.

    • Steve Mancuso

      That’s a lot of twisting and turning and assuming facts not in evidence (Sims walks Souza) to describe a 6% chance being a realistic chance to win. 4 run leads are incredibly safe. A manager has to consider the talent and history of a player, not one or two recent appearances, especially relievers. Even if Schwarber hits a two-run homer, the Reds still have a two-run lead with two innings to go. That’s a big lead, over 90% win rate. Also remember that all this happened with two outs.

      • pinson343

        There was a mistake in what I said: “I don’t buy it that if Sims walks Souza, the Cubs only have a 6% chance of winning.” That was wrong, the 6% chance is with Souza coming up to bat. Obviously, if Souza gets on, the number goes up from 6%.
        But I’m also confused by your statement. If Souza does get on, the bases are loaded and a Schwarber HR would be a grand slam that would tie the score, not a 2 run HR to bring the Cubs within two. The 4 run lead was with two runners already on.

        It sure had my palms sweaty. Bring in Sims one batter earlier, for crap’s sake.

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