Cincinnati Reds: Sonny Gray must offset inept offense versus Phillies

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Sonny Gray faces a tough task today when he takes the mound for the Cincinnati Reds. Given the offensive struggles, Gray will have to be nearly perfect when the Reds face the Phillies in the series finale.

The Cincinnati Reds offense is in a funk. Rather than turn to a bat off the bench or call for the resurgence of a power bat, the Reds may be forced to rely on their starting pitcher. Sonny Gray takes the mound today for the Reds and given the current state of the offense, he’ll have to be close to perfect.

There’s no easy way to say it folks, this Reds offense is not even a shadow of what we thought it would be before the season began. Yes, Cincinnati is missing one of its key offensive weapons in second baseman Scooter Gennett, but players like Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias have provided more than enough pop to supplement Gennett’s absence.

While some fans want to point to some of David Bell‘s questionable decisions or his ever-changing lineup card, the lack of offensive production doesn’t lie at the feet of the Cincinnati Reds’ skipper. No, this is strictly on the players that carry the lumber into the batter’s box. They have not produced and it’s a shame because the pitching has been phenomenal.

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The Reds will have to rely on stellar pitching again today when Sonny Gray takes the mound and unfortunately, that’s going to be the expectation until the offense begins to click. The Reds have lost three straight games and scored a total of four runs.

Yesterday, Tanner Roark was off his game. The right-hander was consistently missing his spots and his long-time nemesis, J.T. Realmuto, made him pay with a leadoff home run in the fourth inning. However, Roark survived the pressures of the Phillies’ lineup and surrendered four runs.

Unfortunately for Roark, the Cincinnati Reds only scratched across one run during yesterday’s contest and that was all the way back in the first inning. In fact, the Reds’ bats, who’d been on a tear until recently, allowed Nick Pivetta to go the distance and only recorded six hits off the Phillies’ right-hander.

Sonny Gray’s last trip to the bump wasn’t a bad outing, but he was out-dueled by three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The right-hander from Vanderbilt University went 5 innings, allowed 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 4 and walking a batter.

The Cincinnati Reds’ are going to need a performance similar to Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker, who pitched a 19-strikeout no-hitter last night for the Commodores, in order to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Philadelphia will send their ace Aaron Nola to the mound.

The Cincinnati Reds faced Nola once last season, and outside of a 1-for-3 performance from Jesse Winker, it didn’t go too well. As a team, the Reds only scratched across three hits, none of which went for extra bases. Given the way the bats are performing right now, they’ll be lucky to get a single run.

I would definitely look for Derek Dietrich to be in the lineup. Last season, Dietrich hit .429 off Aaron Nola with 3 hits including a home run. Yasiel Puig has had recent success off Nola as well, going 1-for-3 with a double in their lone matchup last season.

While I believe the Reds’ offense will finally put together a decent game in today’s series finale, I wouldn’t expect a lot of fireworks, as the bats have given no indication of late that they’re capable of an offensive explosion. This is where Sonny Gray comes in.

Gray, not Luis Castillo, believe it or not, has been the Reds’ best pitcher recently. Gray currently leads the Cincinnati starters in HR/9 with a staggering 0.59. His GB% has been solid too at 56.6%. The former All-Star hasn’t allowed a home run in his last 3 outings and owns a 1.59 ERA in those games.

Because the Reds’ offense has been so inept, Sonny Gray is going to have to come up big against the surging Phillies. Neither Tyler Mahle or Tanner Roark, the other starters in this series, have been victimized harshly by the Phillies big boppers, but a lack of offensive production puts the starters and the bullpen in a position to be near perfect.

Bowman is performing well for the Reds. Next

The Philadelphia Phillies have outscored the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 in this series. Gray will need to go deep into today’s game and keep the runs to a minimum in order to give the Reds a chance to win. It’s unfortunate, but until the Reds’ bats prove that they’re capable of living up to their expectations, the pitching staff will have to exceed theirs.