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Reds fire from all angles in series finale

@m_sheldon
April 11, 2019

CINCINNATI -- When a game is won by a 5-0 score like the Reds did on Thursday afternoon vs. the Marlins to complete a three-game series sweep, it’s not often that a starting pitcher who lasted only four innings because of an injury gets much credit. But that’s how good

CINCINNATI -- When a game is won by a 5-0 score like the Reds did on Thursday afternoon vs. the Marlins to complete a three-game series sweep, it’s not often that a starting pitcher who lasted only four innings because of an injury gets much credit. But that’s how good Sonny Gray was, even while pitching on a sore leg.

Leading off the top of the second inning for Miami, Miguel Rojas smacked a pitch that came back hard to the mound and ricocheted off Gray's left calf. Gray didn’t immediately see the ball behind him before retrieving it and making a late throw to first base. Rojas reached safely with a single.

Showing signs of discomfort, Gray was visited at the mound by head trainer Steve Baumann and manager David Bell. But following a warmup pitch, he was able to continue and retired the next eight batters in a row. Bell made the pitching change before the top of the fifth inning.

“I really believe the key to the game was for him to stay in two more innings there,” Bell said. “If he's not able to do that, it makes it tough to get through the game and he's obviously tough and he wanted to stay in there, but even going as long as he did set the bullpen up.”

The bullpen picked up the slack with Robert Stephenson (credited with the win), Zach Duke, David Hernandez and Wandy Peralta giving up three hits combined for the rest of the day. Gray was diagnosed with a left calf contusion.

“It did get me in a decent spot and it did kind of stiffen a little bit,” said Gray. “Overall, I think it’s fine. I felt OK. I would have liked to compete and continue to go out there. We made the move to go to the bullpen and they put up five zeroes and we shut them out, won the game and swept the series. It was a great series for us.”

Gray has a 2.03 ERA through three starts, and that included a poor debut on March 31 where he lasted 2 2/3 innings vs. the Pirates with three runs allowed. Against Miami, he gave up two hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Although normally a sinkerball pitcher who induces ground balls, there was only one groundout against him -- from his final batter, Starlin Castro.

“I feel confident,” Gray said. “Attacking guys and forcing contact is always big for me. So being able to force the issue is something that I always look forward to doing. When I’m doing that, it’s always going to end up in my favor.”

Gray’s next scheduled start is on Wednesday vs. the Dodgers in Los Angeles. He expected to be ready to pitch, but Bell hedged a little bit.

“It's just so hard to tell with something like that because it is swelling a little bit already,” Bell said. “We do have some time. I know he's going to work hard and work with the trainers to try to keep that swelling down and hopefully he'll be back out there.”

Dominating series for the Reds

The Reds outscored the Marlins by a 21-1 margin with the rotation giving up the lone run over a combined 16 innings of work. Including Eugenio Suarez’s solo home run in the eighth inning, their lineup slugged eight homers over the three games.

It was a big boost for a team that came into the series with a 1-8 record and eight straight losses.

“It’s no secret we lost eight straight,” Gray said. “But for us, it’s just coming in every day and we can focus on winning a series, it’s all it’s really about because the season is so long.”

Cincinnati remained confident it would turn around, especially because the pitching has been good. Through 12 games, the club has scored 42 runs while allowing only 35. Seven of the Reds' losses were by two runs or less.

“The pitchers stopping all the other clubs has been great,” said right fielder Yasiel Puig, who hit a two-run double in the fifth inning to put the game away. “We’re losing a lot of games by one run because the offense is not giving any runs to defend the pitchers’ good job. Now, everybody is together. That’s the reason we won three games in a row.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.