by Steve Mancuso

Here’s a tip Pirates, Sonny Gray and Jesse Winker are good

Turns out the hitting thing is easier when you know what’s coming.

The Pittsburgh Pirates tonight looked a lot like they did the final seven innings last night when they weren’t taking advantage of a guy who was tipping his pitches. Led by starter Sonny Gray, Reds pitchers shut the Pirates down for a 8-1 win. The Reds improve to 9-11. 

Gray was making his fifth start of the season. More importantly, it was the first since his kind of bad start in Milwaukee when he couldn’t get through the 6th inning. (If you’re trying to forget that nightmare of an inning, the one involving Michael Lorenzen, Cody Reed and lots of Brewers circling the bases, I understand.) Tonight, he pitched 6.2 innings and threw 110 pitches. He had thrown that many pitches in a game three times last year. He struck out 10 Pirates batters and walked one. The run he gave up was on a good inside fastball to Bryan Reynolds in the bottom of the strike zone. Gray added to his all-time major league record for consecutive games giving up 6 or fewer hits. 

Here’s Gray striking out Eric Gonzalez on a slider.

Gray was brilliant again, mixing his fastball, curve and slider, throwing more curves than he had in recent games. He induced whiffs or called strikes on about 40% of each. On Sunday, his fastball velocity dropped in the 5th inning. Tonight it stayed strong to the end.

Nate Jones relieved Gray with the score 3-1, a runner on and two outs in the 7th and induced an inning-ending fly ball. Shogo Akiyama made another nice play in the field. About Akiyama, while he’s still adjusting to major league at bats, he’s been terrific on defense and running the bases.

Tyler Thornberg, who was called up from the ATS today, pitched the 8th and 9th. He did his job both in relieving the bullpen by soaking up innings and also not giving up runs.

The Reds bullpen has now thrown 12.2 consecutive scoreless innings.

Jesse Winker — who Sonny Gray called “Lil’ Winky” after the game — continued his hot streak. He drove in the Reds first three runs with two homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the 2nd on a pitch down in the zone. The second was a 400-foot blast into right-center that Winker drove from the center of the plate. The 6th inning homer drove in Joey Votto who had banged a double to deep right center. Winker walked in his third at bat.

The Reds added on in the 7th inning. Josh VanMeter led off with a hustle double. Freddy Galvis followed with an infield single moving VanMeter to third where he scored on Tucker Barnhart’s ground ball. Akiyama followed with a single. Nick Castellanos put the game out of reach with a 3-run homer to centerfield. Barnhart added an RBI double in the 8th inning.

Freddy Galvis had two hits. So did Joey Votto.

Most Valuable Player

  • Sonny Gray .280 WPA (win probability added)
  • Jesse Winker .253 WPA
  • Joey Votto .050 WPA

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Freddy Galvis 107.7 mph | double
  • Joey Votto 105.6 mph | double
  • Nick Castellanos 104.2 mph | home run
  • Josh VanMeter 104.1 mph | double
  • Jesse Winker 102.5 mph | home run

Highest Velocities by Pitcher

  • Nate Jones  95.8 mph
  • Sonny Gray 95.3 mph
  • Tyler Thornberg 94.2 mph

Luckiest Hit of the Day

  • Freddy Galvis 25% hit probability | Single

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Nick Castellanos 55% hit probability | ground out
What’s Next?

The Reds play the Pittsburgh Pirates at 6:10 pm tomorrow night. The pitching matchup is Trevor Bauer against lefty Steven Brault. Brault has three pitches: fastball (51%), slider (30%), changeup (19%). He’s the kind of pitcher the Reds platoon system has feasted on this year.

Bauer has been one of the elite pitchers this season. His strikeout rate of 46.4% is nuts. His xwOBA (quality of contact, Ks, BBs) is in the 99th percentile. His spin rates have made astronomical gains this year, which explains why his pitch velocities have fallen a bit.

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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.