Cincinnati Reds: Sonny Gray ranks among baseball’s best after three starts

Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and catcher Tucker Barnhart return to the dugout after warming up before a game against the Indians on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

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Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and catcher Tucker Barnhart return to the dugout after warming up before a game against the Indians on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Reds starters have third-best ERA in league

Cincinnati Reds starter Sonny Gray didn’t look like himself in the first two innings Monday. There were pitches in the dirt and a wild pickoff throw to first base. He gave up a home run to Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor in the first inning.

“I came out with the wrong type of energy,” Gray said. “I just came out flat and let the boys down early.”

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Gray told himself, “Enough is enough. You’re here. Show up.”

That did the trick because over the next four innings he was the same pitcher who dominated in his first two starts, and the Reds offense came alive as the team overcame a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in the series opener at Great American Ball Park.

Gray lasted six innings, striking out eight and allowing one earned run and four hits. His ERA stands at 0.96, the fourth-best mark in the National League, after three starts. Reds starters have a 2.63 ERA, the third-best mark in the league, and they lead the league with 74 strikeouts.

Gray said he was pitching timid and scared in the early innings.

“I just wasn’t quite in the moment,” he said. “That happens. You’re going to have days like that. You’re going to have to overcome those and find a way to get through it. We found a way to overcome the adversity we’ve been dealing with. We put nine innings together.”

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Career milestone: Joey Votto’s two-run home run in the sixth inning Monday propelled the Reds to a come-from-behind victory and moved him into a tie with Tony Perez for third-most home runs (287) in Reds history.

In eight appearances, Votto is hitting .267 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

“He’s one of the best hitters of all time,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s pretty amazing to be able to say that, but he really is. He’s in a great place right now. I think he feels really good physically and mentally, and it’s shown in the way he’s playing. It was nice for him to contribute in a big way in a big win.”

Lineup news: Center fielder Nick Senzel returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing one game. He jammed his finger on a slide Sunday in Detroit.

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Cutouts debut: Hundreds of faces stared at Votto and the rest of the Reds on on Monday at Great American Ball Park. It was the first time the Reds played in front of photo cutouts bought for $75 each by Reds fans. They were placed in the rows behind the dugouts on each side of the field.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart said he ordered cutouts of his wife and two young boys, but they had not been installed in time for the opener of the Ohio Cup. Other players have done the same.

Votto didn’t know the background of how the cutouts came to be. When informed after the game that the money benefits the Reds Community Fund, he said, “Oh, tremendous. So how about I buy an entire section, and it’s just my face: 100 pictures of me. Is that a good idea? Would that be weird?”

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