by Steffen Taudal

Sonny Gray Sharp, Offense Produces Late in 5-2 Win Over Royals

For 6 innings, it looked like the Reds’ offense was gonna waste a good game from the pitching staff. But some timely hitting gave them a late lead, and a couple of insurance runs in the 8th and 9th helped the Reds secure a very important 5-2 win over the Royals. With the win, the Reds now sit at 45-41, and they’ll hope to keep the momentum going into their next series against the Brewers, their last before the All-Star break. The Brewers’ extra-inning loss to the Mets today gives that series even more importance.

Offense

Through the first 3 innings, the Reds’ offense looked fairly hapless against Royals starter Brady Singer, mustering just a walk and a single while striking out 3 times.

In the 4th inning, the offense finally got something going. After a Tyler Stephenson strikeout, Joey Votto reached base on a comebacker towards the mound that hit Singer’s throwing hand and took a lucky bounce towards the unmanned left side of the infield. Next, Tyler Naquin was hit by a fastball, giving the Reds runners on first and second. But a popout and flyout would end the scoring threat.

By the top of the 5th inning, the Reds were down 2-0. The offensive inefficiency did not end there, though. The Reds were simply incapable of stringing together hits.

In the 7th inning, however, the offense was finally able to hit with runners on base. Back-to-back singles from Tucker Barnhart and Shogo Akiyama gave the Reds runners on first and second for Mike Freeman, who was starting at shortstop. Freeman delivered a big RBI single down the left field line making it 2-1 Royals. Next, Jonathan India ripped a ball into left field, scoring both runners and giving the Reds a 3-2 lead.

That would be all, though, after a popout and two flyouts ended the inning for the offense.

After a weather delay, the Reds’ bats delivered again. Eugenio Suárez doubled with one out, giving the Reds a great opportunity to add on an insurance run. Two batters later, Akiyama would also double down the left field line, scoring Suárez to make it 4-2.

 

In the 9th inning, the offense was hungry for more. After India reached base for the fourth time, Stephenson got his first hit of the day, hitting a single into shallow right field that allowed India to reach third. Votto then struck out, but Naquin delivered a bloop single into left field that scored India and gave the Reds a 5-2 lead.

Pitching

Taking the mound for the Reds today was Sonny Gray, who was making just his second start after spending almost a month on the IL. In his last start on July 2 against the Cubs, Gray looked really solid. In 5 innings, he allowed just 1 run on 5 hits while striking out 8 batters and walking 1.

While the offense was struggling, Gray looked pretty good through his first 2 innings of work. In the 3rd, however, he found himself in some trouble. After a Michael Taylor bloop single, Nicky Lopez hit a groundball single through the middle of the infield, advancing Taylor to third. Gray would get Whit Merrifield to pop out, though, before Barnhart caught Taylor sleeping off the third base bag and threw a dart to Suárez, who easily tagged out the Royals’ center fielder.

Gray then struck out Andrew Benintendi to end the inning.

Trouble found Gray again in the 4th inning. After a Salvador Perez groundout, Carlos Santana singled into left field before Ryan O’Hearn walked to give the Royals runners on first and second. After this, the Reds suffered some bad luck. On a Jorge Soler groundball, Suárez fielded the ball and threw to India at second, who looked to have an easy inning-ending double play. Instead, India hit the sliding O’Hearn’s helmet trying to throw to first, resulting in Soler being safe and a run scoring for the Royals.

Hunter Dozier and Michael A. Taylor would then hit back-to-back singles, allowing another Royals runner to score and giving them runners on the corners with still two outs. Taylor stole second and Lopez walked to load the bases, but Merrifield would pop out to end the inning. Nevertheless, 2-0 Royals.

Gray bounced back nicely, as he retired the next six Royals batters, striking out two and not allowing a ball to be hit harder than 89.9 mph.

With 82 pitches thrown, Gray went back out for the bottom of the 7th inning. The veteran showed no sign of fatigue, as he struck out all three batters he faced.

After this, the game went into weather delay.

With the exception of that 4th inning, Gray looked sharp, and it was encouraging to see him go 7 innings. Gray used a variety of pitches today, with his curveball being especially filthy. On his 20 curveballs, his whiff% was 57%. But it wasn’t just lights-out stuff that helped Gray, as he also excelled at limiting hard hits with an average exit velocity of just 81.5 mph. Below are Gray’s strikeouts, and as you can see, he had a lot of pitches working.

On the day, Gray went 7 innings, allowed 2 runs on 7 hits, struck out 7, and walked 2.

After the weather delay, Josh Osich was tasked with getting three outs in the 8th inning. The left-hander delivered two quick groundouts, but then walked Carlos Santana, causing Bell to take him out of the ballgame.

Entering the game was right-hander Art Warren. Pinch hitter Hanser Alberto would drop down a very well executed bunt, giving the Royals runners on first and second before Warren walked Soler to load the bases. The next batter Hunter Dozier looked to clobber the first pitch he saw, but the ball died out near the warning track, where left fielder Jesse Winker made the easy out. Crisis averted.

With the chance to earn a save, Heath Hembree took the mound in the 9th inning. Hembree struck out Taylor on a great 3-2 slider out of the zone to begin the inning. Lopez would fly out to Winker in left and Merrifield grounded out to Freeman to end it.

Stats

Hardest-Hit Balls

  • Tucker Barnhart: 105.2 mph | Single in 7th Inning
  • Eugenio Suárez: 102.2 mph | Double in 8th Inning
  • Shogo Akiyama: 100.7 mph | Groundout in 3rd Inning

Unluckiest Out of the Day

  • Joey Votto: .490 xBA | GIDP in 6th Inning

Highest Velocities By Pitcher

  • Sonny Gray: 94.5 mph
  • Josh Osich: 94.4 mph
  • Art Warren: 97.7 mph
  • Heath Hembree: 96.4 mph

Highest Pitch Spins

  • Sonny Gray: 2952 rpm | Curveball

Most Pitch Movement

  • Sonny Gray: 62 Inches Vertical Break | Curveball
  • Sonny Gray: 19 Inches Horizontal Break | Slider

Team Expected Batting Averages (xBA)

  • Reds: .304
  • Royals: .221
What’s Next?

The Reds start an important four-game series against the Brewers tomorrow. Milwaukee currently leads the NL Central with a 51-36 record, so at least splitting the series would be an important confidence boost for the Reds heading into the All-Star break, as they try to stay close in the division. On the mound for Cincinnati will be Tyler Mahle, while the Brewers have yet to name a starter. First pitch will be at 8:10 PM EDT.

[Featured image: https://twitter.com/Reds/status/1280898740757442560/photo/1]

Steffen has been a huge Reds fan since watching his very first baseball game during the 2018 season. Despite the Reds finishing 5th in the NL Central for the fourth season in a row, he found himself drawn to the team's storied past and infinitely likable players such as Eugenio Suárez and Joey Votto. Since then, his love of baseball has led to a deep interest in the game's analytics and advanced statistics. Steffen is from Denmark and recently graduated from Aarhus University. You can follow him on twitter @TaudalSteffen

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pinson343
pinson343
2 months ago

Nice writeup, Steffen. Gray got into an excellent rhythm for his last 3 innings. The hesitation in his delivery, which he can only do with the bases empty, seemed to wreak havoc with the timing of the KC hitters.

pinson343
pinson343
2 months ago

I know his numbers this year don’t support it, but I feel confident when Akiyama comes to the plate. The KC tv broadcasters were talking about how fundamentally sound his approach to hitting is. He’s just as fundamentally sound in his approach to defense and base running.

When Suarez was on 2nd, I was looking for Shogo to hit a line drive down the left field line, which he promptly did.

pinson343
pinson343
2 months ago

India’s throw immediately hit O’Hearn on the head because O’Hearn started to stand up as soon as his foot hit the bag. India didn’t expect that and I can’t recall seeing it before, it wasn’t a pop up slide. The KC broadcasters felt there was no chance for a DP, as the ball was a slow roller. I couldn’t tell from what I saw.

pinson343
pinson343
2 months ago

This Reds team reminds me of the 2010 Reds (the “Comeback Kids”) with the way they beat up on teams’ bullpens. But the 2010 Reds had Rhodes-Masset-Cordero in their bullpen.

pinson343
pinson343
2 months ago

In the 1st game of the Brewers-Mets DH, Jose Peraza hit a game tying HR off Josh Hader (!) to send the game into extra innings and a Met victory. He’s getting on base less than ever, but has a surprising 6 HRs in limited ABs.