The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
Another Cincinnati Reds bullpen meltdown made the scoreboard look slightly less tilted in this one, but the work of Sonny Gray certainly had it that way for a time.
The Reds Opening Day starter took his excellent first start of the season and built on it, spinning a 6.2 inning gem against the Chicago Cubs in a game the Reds desperately needed to win. He allowed a lone hit and lone walk while striking out 11 Cubs, with the only runs on his ledger being of the unearned variety (that were also allowed in as inherited runners).
All in all, that lowers his early ERA down to a minuscule 0.71, and the ridiculous run on which he went to finish the 2019 season looks less and less fluky by the day.
Well done, Son.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Mike Moustakas, who returned to the lineup and socked a huge dinger; Nick Senzel, who returned to the lineup and socked a dinger (and a double); Nick Castellanos, who continued his tear with another pair of hits - one of which was a door-kicking grand slam; Lucas Sims, for being the calming (read: scoreless) presence the bullpen needed; Eugenio Suarez, who singled in a pair of runs, walked, and scored twice; and Shogo Akiyama, who singled, doubled, and scored.
- While Sonny was spinning a gem of his own, Kyle Hendricks was matching him step for step early. That changed in the Bottom of the 4th, however, when he walked Geno - his first walk in some 13 IP this year - and then hung a meatball to Moose, who parked it in the RF seats for a 2-run dinger. Reds led, 2-0.
- The Reds chased Hendricks in the Bottom of the 5th. Freddy Galvis got the action started with a single into RF, and he moved to 3B on a ground-rule double by Shogo to straightaway CF. Cubs manager David Ross opted to walk Joey Votto intentionally to load the bags and face the struggling Suarez, but Geno dumped a single into CF that scored a pair to end Hendricks’ night. That brought on lefty Rex Brothers to face Moose, but the lefty walked the lefty, and that left the bases loaded for lefty masher Castellanos, who smoked a chest-high meatball 420 feet into the seats for a grand slam. That new three-batter minimum rule, man. Speaking of that, Brothers was still in there to face Senzel a batter later, who parked a dinger into LF for his first hit of the year. Reds led, 9-0.
- The Cubs finally got on the board in the Top of the 7th, unsurprisingly once the bullpen was tapped. Gray exited after a walk to Steven Souza - his only walk of the game - and a error by Suarez that put Souza on 3B and Josh Phegley at 2B. Brooks Raley was summoned, and that simply did not work. He walked a guy, hit a guy, and then hit Vic Caratini with the bags juiced to force in a run. Nico Hoerner then singled in a pair of runs before Kris Bryant pounded a bases-clearing double into the LF corner, and Raley then walked David Bote before getting pulled. Reds led, 9-5.
- Walks to Moose and Castellanos opened the Bottom of the 7th, with Travis Jankowski comin on to run for Moose. Janky scored on a poke past Kris Bryant off the bat of Jesse Winker (which was scored an error), while Castellanos then came home on Senzel’s RBI double into the LF corner. A walk to Galvis then loaded the bases with still nobody out, and Dillon Maples then walked Tucker Barnhart, too, this time to force in a run. What happened next was ridiculous, as Shogo hit a laser towards 3B that initially looked like Kris Bryant caught, and after stepping on 3B and throwing to 1B, it was a triple play - however, replay clearly showed it hitting the dirt, but for some reason that is a non-reviewable play, which is a suitcase full of bullshit. Anyway, it cost the Reds at least a run, and the inning ended with the Reds up 12-5.
- Unfortunately, Cody Reed sought fit to continue this recap, as he served up a 2-run tater to Bote in the Top of the 9th to make the hair on our collective necks stand up, but fortunately that was that. Reds won, 12-7!
- To say that win was much-needed would be a colossal understatement. Of course, tonight’s lineup was finally chock full of the players they intended to have available everyday for the first time, so hopefully this is just the beginning of great things to come.
- Sonny’s riding a record streak right now. He’s now gone 35 consecutive starts without giving up more than 6 hits, which is just absurd. We’ll miss you, Shed Long, but holy heck what a pickup.
- Thursday’s series finale will feature yet another star-studded pitching matchup, as Luis Castillo will go for the Reds opposite Chicago’s Yu Darvish. First pitch is set again for 6:40 PM ET despite the Reds scheduled to hit the road for Detroit on Friday, and you can catch it on both FS-Ohio or MLB.tv.