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Gray's 'mistake': not being perfect

One pitch all it takes to saddle veteran with hard-luck loss
@m_sheldon
April 17, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- When a game is essentially lost on one pitch, a pitcher like Reds starter Sonny Gray is going to pore over it, analyze it and try to determine what worked and what didn’t. On Wednesday in a 3-2 defeat to the Dodgers that gave Los Angeles a

LOS ANGELES -- When a game is essentially lost on one pitch, a pitcher like Reds starter Sonny Gray is going to pore over it, analyze it and try to determine what worked and what didn’t. On Wednesday in a 3-2 defeat to the Dodgers that gave Los Angeles a three-game series sweep at Dodger Stadium, that one pitch was hit by A.J. Pollock for a three-run home run in the sixth inning.

“Looking at it over and over and over and over at Pollock, the Dodgers have got a great lineup. They’ve got a great team. They’re going to grind,” Gray said. “They’re going to continue to put pressure on you. Maybe it wasn’t my best pitch, but looking back at it, it was a 1-0 curveball that was in the bottom, location-wise, it was fine. The action on it was fine. He’s a really good player, and he put a good swing on it.”

Pollock was in the position to change the game after the prior hitter, Cody Bellinger, was issued an intentional walk that put two men on base with two outs.

The decision to bypass Bellinger -- who leads the Majors in average and runs scored and the National League in homers -- for Pollock came from bench coach Freddie Benavides because manager David Bell was ejected during the fifth inning. But Bell endorsed the choice, saying he would have done likewise.

“I do believe we did the right thing,” Bell said.

Gray, a righty, also had no regrets about going after Pollock, who is right-handed while Bellinger is a lefty.

“Right there, it’s kind of pick your poison,” Gray said. “It didn’t work out for us. It is the right move.”

Gray gave up three earned runs and only two hits over his six innings. He walked two -- including the intentional one to Bellinger -- and struck out nine. He retired his first 10 batters in a row and 15 of 16 until the decisive sixth inning that began with a leadoff walk to Austin Barnes.

“When a guy’s pitching like that, you can just see that he’s just locating his pitches super well, every single pitch he’s got -- bottom corner, up and in, just really controlling the pitches,” Pollock said. “If you have an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it. It’s fortunate enough that we could take advantage of maybe a couple mistakes, and he didn’t make too many of them.”

In his four starts for the Reds, Gray is 0-3 with a 2.79 ERA. Although his previous four-scoreless-inning start that was stopped by a calf injury ultimately was a 5-0 win over the Marlins on Thursday, the lineup has scored only two runs for him while he has been in a game. On the days that Gray starts, Cincinnati is batting .168 (20-for-119).

It’s not just Gray getting little support. The Reds are ranked last in MLB with a .200 batting average, while their pitchers have combined for a 3.48 ERA that’s third best in the NL.

“I take that personally because I’m out there hitting myself,” Reds catcher Curt Casali said. “Man, we’re not doing [Gray] any favors right now. Kudos to him for not letting it be known. Everybody knows he’s pitching his tail off and we’re not giving him any support right now. You keep saying, it’s early, it’s early, it’s early. No, we have to start winning.

“We have to start playing some good baseball. We have to start getting our bats going. It’s not for a lack of effort. We’re trying. We just need to get into a nice rhythm and get ourselves going, but he deserved better than that today.”

Bell felt Gray was the best he has been this season.

“Sonny was outstanding. It’s too bad,” Bell said after his 5-12 team’s fourth straight loss. “I know he was facing good hitters, but really one pitch was the difference. That’s what happens when you play good teams. It doesn’t really take anything away of how well Sonny pitched other than, really, that one pitch.”

Why was Bell ejected?
The Reds were not thrilled with home plate umpire Nick Mahrley’s strike zone during the game, especially some of the calls on low pitches. Bell was ejected in the fifth inning after Casali struck out.

“I didn’t say one word the entire game about the strike zone,” said the rookie manager, who has been ejected twice in 2019. “We had some of our hitters who were upset about a couple calls. It was never over the line or anything. Guys were yelling out. When the umpire continued to look in our dugout, which I understand why he was doing that because guys were yelling, I was just saying, ‘Hey, I will take care of this. Pay attention to the game.’ That’s all I said.”

Rare feat by Votto
For the final out in the top of the eighth inning, Joey Votto popped out to Bellinger at first base in foul territory. That literally had never happened to Votto in the big leagues. According to MLB.com researcher David Adler, it was the first time Votto popped out to a first baseman, and it came in his 6,829th career plate appearance.

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.