|Philadelphia Phillies (72-67)
|Cincinnati Reds (66-75)
|W: Bowman (2-0) L: Vincent (1-3)|
|Statcast | Box Score | Game Thread|
Pardon the pun, but since the season’s second half began, Sonny Gray has seemed like the lone bright spot of the Reds’ pitching staff. After an encouraging first half by Cincinnati starters and relievers alike, the team’s recent woes have included an inconsistent Luis Castillo, a struggling Trevor Bauer, a re-injured Alex Wood and multiple blown saves.
Gray, meanwhile, just completed an incredible August in which he posted the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher during a calendar month in team history. In that time, he allowed just three earned runs and won four of his six starts. (If not for a swiss cheese bullpen, he would have also won the other two starts, as well as his two previous no-decisions.) Along the way, he lowered his overall ERA for the season from a respectable 3.59 at the All-Star break to a rotation-leading 2.80.
For the first three innings of Thursday’s getaway game against Philadelphia, Gray continued to dominate batters, yielding only one hit – a shift-beating bunt single by Bryce Harper – while striking out four and walking none. In the fourth, however, the Phillies got on the board via a leadoff triple by J.T. Realmuto that deflected off the left-field wall just out of reach of a leaping Phillip Ervin. After a laser-like lineout by Harper, Rhys Hoskins doubled to left to plate Realmuto and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Gray gave up a fourth hit in the fifth before getting Corey Dickerson to fly out to end the inning following a nine-pitch battle.
The Reds, meanwhile, made soft-tossing Phillies starter Justin Vargas look like an ace for the first five innings, going down in order three times and collecting only two hits along the way. The team’s starting lineup was borderline spring training-worthy, with Alex Blandino at second, Josh VanMeter at first and – for the first time to begin a game this season – Michael Lorenzen in center. Lorenzen, of course, was coming off a game in which he pitched two innings in relief to collect the win in addition to hitting a two-run home run. He also played some outfield, becoming the first ballplayer since Babe Ruth to complete that particular hat trick.
After retiring the side in order in the sixth, Gray – who was due to lead off the bottom of the inning – was lifted from the game despite having thrown just 89 pitches. His final line continued his season-long streak of not yielding more than six hits or four runs: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 7 K. Perhaps more importantly, he walked no one – a marked improvement from his other second-half starts, in which he had a 11.1% walk rate – in a game in which he threw 17 of 22 first-pitch strikes. Gray’s ERA now sits at 2.75.
After pinch-hitter Nick Senzel – a late scratch from yesterday’s game with a sore right shoulder – popped out to lead off the bottom of the inning, Blandino collected his first big-league hit of 2019, a double to left that brought Jose Iglesias to the plate. Iglesias then clubbed Vargas’ first pitch – described by Reds announcer Marty Brenneman as “the definition of a hanging curve” – 412 feet into the outfield seats to finally get the home team on the board.
Former Red Jared Hughes then entered the game for Philadelphia – comically sprinting to the mound as usual – but Eugenio Suarez, back in the starting lineup for the first time since getting plunked on the hand on Sunday, smacked Hughes’ first pitch into the right-center bleachers for his 41st home run of the year to give the Reds a 3-1 lead.
Reliever Kevin Gausman then entered the game in the top of the seventh and didn’t have much success. With one out, he yielded a single, walked the following batter and gave up another single to shrink the Reds’ lead to one. After a groundout brought Dickerson back to the plate with two outs and two runners in scoring position, Gausman caught a hard-hit liner to end another tense nine-pitch at-bat and protect the Reds’ meager lead.
The Reds threatened to blow the game open in the seventh, when Lorenzen and, shockingly, pinch-hitter Jose Peraza drew walks. Blandino then singled to right to load the bases with two outs, but Peraza was tagged out as his slide back into second base drew him off the bag. Three pitches later, the Phillies tied the game when Realmuto crushed a 97 MPH Robert Stephenson fastball into the left field seats, earning Gray another no-decision in the process. Stephenson subsequently retired the next three batters.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Reds threatened again when Suarez singled and Ervin walked to bring Joey Votto – pinch-hitting for Curt Casali – to the plate with two outs. Votto, however, hit a long fly-out to the edge of the center-field warning track for the inning’s final out.
The top of the ninth saw Raisel Iglesias send the Phillies down in order, his third consecutive perfect inning of relief following a disastrous five-game stretch in which he gave up 11 hits and six runs over 2 2/3 innings. Joel Kuhnel then retired the side in the tenth, but he walked Harper to lead off the eleventh. After Kuhnel collected his fourth out, David Bell turned to Matt Bowman, who retired the next two batters.
Leading off the bottom of the eleventh, Ervin drove a ball that just cleared the outfield wall to give the Reds a 4-3 walk-off win. (Forgive the brevity of that weak description of the game’s key moment, but after a nearly four-hour game, real life beckons!)