Cincinnati Reds: Sonny Gray was reckless in his return to Oakland

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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Sonny Gray did not have his A-game in his return to the Bay Area. The Cincinnati Reds starter was wildly erratic and is still winless on the season.

The Cincinnati Reds dropped another one-run game, this time it was courtesy of a Stephen Piscotty walk-off homer in the 13th. The offense sent 10 players to the plate in the second inning, but failed to score after that. However, it was Sonny Gray‘s erratic start that put the Reds in a tough position from the start.

First, I’m not a fan of the five-man outfield, but that’s not why the Reds lost 4-5 in extra innings to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night. The Reds’ demise was triggered early the game when the A’s got off to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning because Sonny Gray couldn’t throw strikes.

Reds fans have been spoiled by Gray’s outings of late. After a rough start in his first game to begin the season, Sonny Gray settled down and became a top-level pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds’ rotation. After going just 2.2 innings in his Reds’ debut, the next 6 games that Gray started resulted in the right-hander striking out 38 batters while only walking 7 over 32 innings.

Last night’s performance more closely mirrored Gray’s struggles in his first start. The former Oakland ace went 4.1 innings while striking out 3 and walking 5. Gray also allowed a 2-run bomb in the bottom of the 1st to Jurickson Profar, who now has 4 homers on the season, 2 of which came in the last 2 games against the Cincinnati Reds.

After loading the bases in the bottom of the 5th inning, Gray was pulled after throwing just 83 pitches in favor of lefty Amir Garrett. Garrett struck out 2 of the 3 Oakland hitters that he faced, but Piscotty snuck a ground ball to the right-side of the infield and an errant throw by Kyle Farmer allowed not just one, but two runs to score.

There’s no easy way to say this, Sonny Gray was bad last night. Whether it was nerves or bad mechanics, Gray did not have his best stuff and it showed early. Gray was all over the strike zone, issuing two walks in the first inning. In fact, if it weren’t for some splendid defense by the Reds’ infield, led by José Iglesias, this game might not have gone to extra innings.

Sonny Gray was brought in to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher on this Cincinnati Reds’ staff. To date, both Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani have bested Gray, who looks to be the No. 3 or No.4 starter on this team currently.

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I’m not giving up on Gray, not by a long shot, but he has to maintain his control. When Sonny Gray is hitting his spots, he’s right on par with the other starters in the rotation. Let’s chalk this one up to Gray’s nerves getting the best of him in a return to the stadium where he saw his best baseball. However, if Gray doesn’t get himself under control, it could become a real concern for the Reds.