Reds: Sonny Gray is the best option in win-or-go-home versus Dodgers

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 07: Starting pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 07: Starting pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Chad Dotson, who can be heard regularly on Redleg Nation Radio and is a contributor at Cincinnati Magazine, recently suggested that Luis Castillo would be his choice to start a potential Wild Card Game should the Cincinnati Reds make the postseason. Castillo is a solid choice, but if we’re talking about a winner-take-all game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, gimme Sonny Gray.

I know, I know, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here, but when is the last time you’ve been this excited about a Reds team. Cincinnati currently leads San Diego by one game in the standings for the final Wild Card spot in the National League.

While the Reds schedule isn’t a cake walk, Cincy faces the Pittsburgh Pirates nine times over the final month-plus. Throw in a three-game set with the Miami Marlins, three games versus the Chicago Cubs, and a four-game visit from the Washington Nationals, and the Redlegs’ schedule certainly isn’t as imposing as the Padres’.

San Diego gets the white-hot Los Angels Dodgers for three games beginning tonight, only to play the defending World Champions six more times over the final month of the season. The Friars also have seven remaining games with the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants and a three-game visit from the streaking Atlanta Braves.

Sonny Gray would be the Reds’ best option in a potential Wild Card Game.

Currently, the San Francisco Giants lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by 2.5 games in the National League West Division. Much like the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the top two squads in the NL West only play one more three-game series, so LA’s chances of making up ground in a head-to-head series will be limited.

If the playoffs began today, the Cincinnati Reds would play the Los Angeles Dodgers in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game at Chavez Ravine. The location of the contest is very important, and is one of the biggest reasons I’d lean on Sonny Gray rather than Wade Miley or Luis Castillo.

For his career, Miley has started seven games in Dodgers Stadium. The southpaw is 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA. Castillo’s numbers aren’t bad, as the right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in three starts with 15 punch outs over 11 innings.

Tyler Mahle is certainly an option to start a potential Wild Card Game against the Dodgers as well, as the California native is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA. Mahle has also been dominant on the road this season with a sparkling 1.86 ERA in 13 games away from Great American Ball Park this season. I just don’t know that I’d trust Mahle in that situation.

Reds starter Sonny Gray has a stellar track record versus the Dodgers.

But Sonny Gray has been nails in Dodgers Stadium. Owning a 2.18 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 20.2 innings of work, Gray posted a 12.6 SO/9 and 0.726 WHIP. Castillo’s SO/9 (12.3) at Chavez Ravine is also impressive, but his WHIP (1.182) isn’t nearly as imposing as Gray’s. Miley has 6.8 SO/9 at Dodgers Stadium with a WHIP of 1.104.

The bright lights of Hollywood also seem to bring out the best in Sonny Gray. All of Gray’s starts versus the Dodgers have been on the road and the right-hander, though he holds a 1-2 record, has limited LA’s batters to just nine hits over 20.2 innings. Dodgers hitters have posted a measly .130/.200/.246 slash line versus the Gray.

Given the way the 2021 season has unfolded for Sonny Gray, it seems a bit odd that the Reds would even consider the right-hander in a must-win situation. After all, Gray has struggled to stay healthy this season and his 4.15 ERA his worst since being traded from the New York Yankees after the 2018 season.

But make no mistake, no one on the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff is going to outwork Gray. When he’s locked in, there’s no pitcher on the team that I’d rather have toe the mound. After Gray’s last start, in which he allowed just one hit over seven innings and struck out five, there’s hope that the right-hander may be getting back to form after missing several weeks over the course of the season.

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If the Cincinnati Reds are able to reach the Wild Card Game in October and head out to LA to battle the Dodgers,David Bell has four good options. Vladimir Gutierrez may actually give the Reds’ skipper five. But, for my money, I’m taking Sonny Gray in a winner-take-all Wild Card matchup with the season on the line.