Jonathan India continued to stuff his Rookie of the Year portfolio Thursday afternoon, furnishing the game’s big explosion as the Cincinnati Reds finally stopped the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-1.
India’s three-run home run in the fifth inning, a splashdown in the Reds bullpen that scattered beverages, provided pitcher Sonny Gray all the comfort he needed.
And he didn’t need much. Gray held the Brewers scoreless on three hits over six innings, using mostly a wide-breaking curveball that started in Sheboygan and ended up in Kenosha.
Before India’s home run, Gray popped up a bunt attempt and as he passed India, who was headed for the batter’s box, Gray said, “I popped up the bunt, now pick me up here.”
What a pick-me-up it was.
“Pick me up here, John, pick me up,” Gray said to India. “Sure as crap, a three-run homer. He is definitely a great player and I’m a fan.”
India isn’t quiet about his Rookie of the Year aspirations but adds an addendum.
“Have I thought about it? It is definitely within my reach,” said India. “It was definitely my goal at the beginning of the year, I did say it, I want to be Rookie of the Year.
“But I just want to win,” he added. “I’m not big on personal accolades. I want to win for the team, make the playoffs and make a run. That’s my goal, to help the team win, no matter what.”
Reds manager David Bell, of course, is a big India booster and believes his second baseman is Rookie of the Year.
“Of course, I do, I get to see him every day,” said Bell. “There is so much more about him when you get to be around him every day and see what he has done for our team. I don’t know how he’s not (Rookie of the Year), based on what I know about him.”
The Reds’ victory ended a five-game losing streak to the Brewers and cut their National League Central Division lead to 8 1/2 games.
Gray is one a positive roll, 13 straight scoreless innings. And Aug. 26 is special to him.
“This is the day my dad passed away in a car accident,” said Gray. “It is really special to be able to pitch on this day. I had a big sun shining down on me today. I think this is the third time I’ve pitched on this day (August 26) and I want to say I’ve won all three of them.”
The Reds scored a run in the first off Milwaukee starter Brett Anderson on a game-opening single by India, a walk to Tyler Stephenson and Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly.
It stayed 1-0 until the fifth when Eugenio Suarez and Tyler Naquin singled, extending Naquin’s hitting streak to 15 games.
Then with two outs India cleared the bases and the bullpen with his 17th home run. On Tuesday night, India was hit on the wrist with a pitch in the first inning.
He stayed in the game, took treatment in the clubhouse between innings, and didn’t miss a pitch the rest of that game and Wednesday’s game.
Gray sent chills through the Reds’ dugout, too. With two outs and one on in the third, he called for the trainers. He stretched out on his back on the mound, but stayed in. He, too, took between-inning clubhouse treatment and finished his assignment.
“I threw a couple pitches where I felt a little thing (in the hamstring),” said Gray. “On the next pitch it kind of shot up on me a little bit. I thought I just had to get through the inning and get some treatment to see where I’m at.”
He had it wrapped tightly and was able to pitch three more scoreless innings with that mind-bending curveball, a pitch Bell called, “The best curveball he’s had all year.”
Said Gray, “They had seven lefties in their batting order and the curve is a pitch I use to left-handed batters. I was glad the curve was there.”
Cincinnati Moeller product Brent Suter took the mound for Milwaukee in the sixth and Nick Castellanos lined his first pitch over the left-field wall, his 24th homer and second in two days.
Gray left after six innings and it was immediate disaster pending.
Tony Santillan’s first pitch in the seventh to Luis Urias landed in the left-field seats. Then he issued a walk, recorded a strikeout and issued another walk.
Santillan was removed for Justin Wilson with two on and one out. Wilson immediately coaxed an inning-ending double play from Kolten Wong to leave it at 5-1.
Reds at Marlins, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410