Gray on rough start: 'I have to own that'

September 2nd, 2020

CINCINNATI -- When the Reds traded for reliever , neither party could have expected his debut to happen in just about the lowest-leverage situation possible. Arizona's former closer, who was brought in to bolster Cincinnati's bullpen in the late innings for a playoff push, took the ball from manager David Bell in the top of the third inning with his team down by nine runs.

That's because starter did not have it in a disastrous first inning, as he allowed six runs and recorded only two outs during a 16-2 blowout loss to the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.

"It's not a good feeling, because I put every single guy in that clubhouse in a bad spot. I have to own that and I have to wear that," Gray said. "I mean, before you even take a foot in the dugout for the first inning for your first at-bat -- you're losing by six."

Over his two-thirds of an inning -- the shortest outing of Gray's career -- the right-hander faced 10 batters and gave up five hits and three walks with just one strikeout. Had he stayed in longer, his Major League record streak of 40 starts with six hits or less allowed would have likely ended.

St. Louis' first three batters reached via two hits and a walk before Brad Miller hit a two-run double. A two-out walk to Matt Carpenter extended the inning and brought pitching coach Derek Johnson out for a mound conference.

“They were just trying to get me rolling, trying to give me a break," Gray said. "I clearly was struggling, there was no secret [that] everything that I was throwing, they were on. Every ball that I threw, they didn't flinch. Every strike that I threw, they seem to put a good swing on. I was constantly behind."

But the breather couldn't end the struggle as Gray gave up an additional four runs on two hits and a walk.

Bell turned the game over to his bullpen from there. Gray threw 38 pitches, but only 17 were strikes. He tied his career high in runs allowed in an inning, matching when he did it on May 9, 2016, for Oakland against the Red Sox in Boston in the fourth inning.

"It’s not any fun to see any of your guys have to go through that, because he’s been so good for us in so many ways. I know he takes it personally. It’s hard not to, but he shouldn’t because he gives everything he has, and it was just one of those days for him," Bell said. “You could tell pretty early on it wasn’t coming out like it normally does. He’s healthy. He’s fine. He’s going to bounce back."

Lucas Sims, who came in with a 0.69 ERA in 11 appearances, also got touched up by Cardinals hitters with three runs on five hits over his 1 2/3 innings.

With two on and one out in the top of the third inning, Bradley made his debut. Three innings later, so did fellow new acquisition Brian Goodwin in right field when he replaced Nick Castellanos with the game out of reach.

"It was pretty quick. The flight, Brian and I landed, [were driven] over, sized up, talked to the skipper, training staff, said hi to all the guys, played catch real quick and then it was shower and game time," Bradley said. "Kind of just right into it, which I preferred. I didn’t mind throwing tonight. It was great to get in, get acclimated and we go from here."

Bradley struck out his first batter, Paul Goldschmidt, and got Miller to pop out in foul territory. Overall, he worked 1 2/3 innings with two hits and two strikeouts. The Reds sent utility player Josh VanMeter and outfield prospect Stuart Fairchild to Arizona to get Bradley.

"They traded for me to pitch in games, and that’s what I’m here to do," Bradley said. "I know the people in Arizona will back this up, but I don’t care if it’s the ninth inning or the second inning. I want to pitch in games that matter. I want to pitch in games to help our team win, and that’s what I’m here to do."

St. Louis’ shutout bid ended in the bottom of the sixth after starter Kwang Hyun Kim's departure, when Joey Votto led off with a home run to right-center field against reliever Ryan Helsley. Goodwin, acquired from the Angels on Monday, hit the first pitch he saw for a double to the left-field wall.

The 16 runs and 23 hits allowed were season highs for Cincinnati, which has dropped to 15-21 and 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with 24 games remaining. Bradley and Goodwin were acquired to help for a postseason push. That will have to start in earnest on Wednesday.

"Not the way you draw it up for two of your new players," Bell said. "Hopefully that will never happen again."