by Steve Mancuso

Brewers tie series at 1-1 with a 3-2 win, setting up gigantic game tomorrow

After a first inning home run, the Reds offense was largely silent, allowing the Brewers to even the series with a 3-2 win. Milwaukee scored two decisive runs in the 7th inning off a rookie reliever in his second inning of work. 

The two teams face each other tomorrow night in a crucial game to decide this series and the crucial season series. 

The Pitching

The Reds traded for Sonny Gray in the winter before the 2019 season. The Yankees were shopping Gray at bargain basement prices because their fans had turned against the 28-year-old pitcher. The Reds paid Gray the $7.5 million for the 2019 season the Yankees had agreed to. They also signed him to a 3-year extension for $10 million a year and a $13 million team option in 2013.

The 2019 reunion of Gray with his former college pitching coach at Vanderbilt Derek Johnson paid great dividends. Gray produced a career-best strikeout rate and an overall performance 25-28% better than the average major league starter. Gray’s 2019 season was the second-best in the decade for a Reds pitcher. In sabermetric parlance, Gray’s 5-WAR season was worth about $50 million on the open market. That was 2019.

That was 2019. The question this spring was could Sonny Gray continue to put up those numbers? Through Sonny Gray’s 8th start of the 2020 COVID season, the answer was an unequivocal yes. In fact, Gray was bettering his 2019 performance. His strikeout rate in 2020 was 33% compared to 29% in 2019. His walk-rate was down a smidge. Overall, he had pitched 33% better than the average  starter.

But when the calendar turned from August to September, Sonny Gray started to struggle. On Sept 1, he didn’t make it out of the first inning against the Cardinals. The Reds pushed his next start back, but on Sept. 10 he only made it 3.1 innings against the Cubs. He gave up 11 earned runs between those two starts, with six walks and five strikeouts. The Reds put him on the IL with a mid-back strain.

Tonight’s start against the Brewers was his first after coming off the IL. Gray said before the game he was 100% and pitched like it. He threw 5 innings of 1-run baseball. Gray struck out 8 and walked only one. He gave up a solo home run to Tyrone Taylor in the 5th. Gray threw 80 pitches. Gray showed no signs of rust. He struck out two in the first inning, two in the second and whiffed Christian Yelich on a called third strike in the 3rd.

Tejay Antone relieved Gray in the 6th and retired the Brewers in order, striking out two including another called third strike on Yelich. It was an 81 mph breaking ball. But the 7th inning wasn’t so kind to Antone. Daniel Vogelbach stuck his bat out and poked the ball into left field for a single. On a 0-2 count, Jedd Gyorko lined a breaking ball that was above the strike zone into left center for a double, putting runners at second and third. Here’s the pitch location on Gyorko’s double:

Antone got another pitch up in the zone that let Orlando Arcia loft a fly ball to center that scored Vogelbach. Eric Sogard had the biggest hit for the Brewers, smacking a hit to left field that Aristides Aquino played into a double. Gyorko scored the go-ahead run making the score 3-2. Antone shut the door after that.

Amir Garrett pitched the 8th, walking Yelich but then inducing a double play ball by Ryan Braun. Garrett faced the minimum.

Anthony DeSclafani, pitching out of the bullpen for the first time since 2014,

The Bats

The bad Reds offense showed up tonight, throttled by … Brett Anderson. The only exceptions were three hits by Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, two players in the lineup with recent postseason experience.

In the first inning, Aristides Aquino led off with a ground ball but was safe on a throwing error. Castellanos made Milwaukee pay for the error, launching a 422-foot home run to centerfield. It was the Reds outfielder’s 14th homer of the year. In the second, Kyle Farmer reached on an error and Curt Casali grounded a double down the third base line. But the Reds were unable to get runners in from second and third.

Mike Moustakas had two doubles, one to left-center field the other into the right field corner. He didn’t score either inning. In the 4th inning, Tyler Stephenson hit a fly ball to right field to move Moustakas to third. But with one out, Nick Senzel struck out swinging and Kyle Farmer lined out to center.

The Brewers went to the first half of their tough bullpen duo in the 7th inning, bringing in RHP Devin Williams. David Bell unloaded the left-handed batters on his bench. Jesse Winker walked. But Tucker Barnhart and Brian Goodwin struck out. Nick Castellanos grounded out.

Williams struck out the side in the 8th. Josh Hader retired the Reds in order in the 9th.

Vital Stats

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Nick Castellanos 107.8 mph | home run
  • Eugenio Suarez 105.6 mph | ground out
  • Nick Senzel 102.2 mph | ground out
  • Mike Moustakas 101.2 | double

Highest Velocities by Pitcher

  • Teejay Antone 97.3
  • Amir Garrett 96.5
  • Anthony DeSclafani 95.7 mph
  • Sonny Gray 94.2 mph

xBA (expected batting average)

  • Reds .180
  • Brewers .223

What’s Next?

The most important game of the season. The pitching matchup is Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer going on three-days rest vs. Adrian Houser. Houser a league average RHP with a low strikeout rate balanced by a high ground ball rate. For more detail, check the preview post I wrote yesterday. 

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.

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5 months ago

Has Bell announced a rotation for Minnesota? Is it Mahle, Castillo, Gray? DeSclafani only pitched one inning so I assume he could start Friday instead of Mahle. One bit of good news, the Phillies lost two today.

Matt Wilkes
5 months ago
Reply to  kmartin

Rotation for the Twins series is Mahle, Castillo, Bauer. Gray, along with Disco and Miley, pitching out of the bullpen.

Last edited 5 months ago by Matt Wilkes
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt Wilkes

I hope Bell uses Lorenzen over Miley.

Thomas Green
Thomas Green
5 months ago

I look forward to discussing in more depth the Reds’ struggles against the soft-tosser set – and particularly what may be done to remedy it going forward. No data to back this up, but my gut says this offense performs relatively as expected against harder throwers, including the toughest in the league, but falls well below expectations against the off-speed masters.
Big, big game today. Go, Redlegs!