CHICAGO -- The Reds lost two games in the standings in their three-game set against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and while the chance to take games from the National League Central leader is crucial, the way Cincinnati is currently pitching will surely help keep the club in the race.
Sonny Gray's performance in the Reds’ 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon put a cap on an impressive series for Cincinnati's starting rotation. Gray followed Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani with a strong outing of his own, locking in after surrendering two early home runs to Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
“Yeah, I felt good. We made an adjustment after the first couple of innings,” Gray said. It seemed to work out pretty well.”
Gray retired the last 13 batters he faced following Russell’s second-inning homer and finished the game allowing just two runs on two hits over six innings.
He struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Had the Reds not trailed 2-0 when his turn in the lineup came up in the top of the seventh, the 2019 All-Star could have easily pitched into the seventh and possibly eighth innings.
The only thing that stopped Gray and the Reds from taking the series from the Cubs was Yu Darvish, who went pitch for pitch with Gray. Unlike his counterpart, he didn't allow a run.
“Those two pitchers right there, that's as good stuff as you're going to see,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys were coming back shaking their heads. I know they were also. Combination of fastball, breaking pitches, et cetera.”
Gray becomes just the third pitcher since 1908 to allow two solo homers for his only hits over six innings or more with no walks and take the loss, joining Kevin Correia (June 16, 2009, for the Padres vs. Seattle) and Mark Buehrle (May 31, 2007, for the White Sox vs. Toronto).
“Sonny continues to pitch really, really well,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Here in the middle of the season, he’s even better than he was at the beginning. He continues to gain momentum and give us an opportunity to win games when he’s out there.”
After allowing 18 runs (14 earned) in the second-half-opening series against the Rockies at Coors Field, Reds starters combined to allow just 2.7 runs per start in Chicago as the combination of Castillo, DeScalfani and Gray continue to impress.
“That’s been a pretty consistent story for us this year,” Bell said. “Our starting pitching and for most of the year our bullpen. You can’t ask for much more. They make for good games, where a big hit here and a big hit there can make the difference.”
Gray, who has allowed just five runs over his last four starts, knows there are no consolation prizes, especially with the NL Central race tightening with each passing day.
“The only thing that really matters for us is to win games.”