Home-grown

Gray is 0-3 and getting raves

Former Vanderbilt pitcher Sonny Gray is 0-3 for the Cincinnati Reds, but he has received little run support and his earned run average is 2.79. (photo by Mike Morrow)

Seldom has an 0-3 pitcher been given such good notices as Sonny Gray.

Gray is still looking for his first victory as a Cincinnati Red, and he is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. But he’s getting good reviews, especially after his last outing, which was a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, when Gray was matched against Walker Buehler, making for a duel between two former Vanderbilt pitchers.

The Dodgers won that game 3-2. Gray’s one big mistake was a pitch A.J. Pollock hit for a three-run homer. But even Gray felt the pitch had good location. He simply complimented Pollock, and said he liked Buehler.

Mark Sheldon of mlb.com offered a little perspective on Gray’s winless times.

“On the days that Gray starts, Cincinnati is batting .168 (20-for-119),” Sheldon wrote.

“It’s not just Gray getting little support. The Reds are ranked last in MLB with a .200 batting average, while their pitchers have combined for a 3.48 ERA that’s third best in the NL.”

That ERA actually got a little better since Sheldon’s report. The Reds’ ERA is now 3.22, which ties them with the San Francisco Giants for second in the National League behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, at 2.54. And the Reds are tied with the Giants for third best ERA in Major League Baseball, behind the second-place Tampa Bay Rays at 2.85.

Even Pollack gave a nod to Gray.

“When a guy’s pitching like that, you can just see that he’s just locating his pitches super well, every single pitch he’s got — bottom corner, up and in, just really controlling the pitches,” Pollock said in Sheldon’s report.

Then there were the comments of Reds catcher Curt Casali, yet another Vanderbilt product.

“I take that personally because I’m out there hitting myself,” Casali said of Gray’s lack of support, according to the mlb.com story. “Man, we’re not doing (Gray) any favors right now. Kudos to him for not letting it be known. Everybody knows he’s pitching his tail off and we’re not giving him any support right now. You keep saying, it’s early, it’s early, it’s early. No, we have to start winning.”

The New York Post, which has been fascinated with the Gray story since his struggles with the Yankees resulted in a trade to Cincinnati, chimed in, saying, “Gray is seemingly finding new life with the Cincinnati Reds.

“The 29-year-old was nearly flawless against the offensive powerhouse Dodgers on Wednesday night, until his long blemish came on a three-run shot by A.J. Pollock, marking Los Angeles’ 38th dinger of the season — which ranks second to the Seattle Mariners (42) in MLB.”

In that game, Gray gave up two hits in six innings, walked two batters and struck out nine. His current ERA for the season is 2.79 in 19 innings with 22 strikeouts.

Even the fantasy leaguers are saying good things about him.

For those looking for a player pickup, a fantasy baseball report at cbssports.com said, “Sticking to those owned in less than 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues, my favorite is Sonny Gray, who seems to have rediscovered his form in Cincinnati.”

And for good measure, that report threw in yet another former Vanderbilt player, saying, “Meanwhile, Mike Minor (of the Texas Rangers) has been consistently pitching deep into games while elevating his swinging strike rate to the level it was when he worked out of the bullpen two years ago.”

Fantasypros.com noted, “Gray left his previous start early with a calf contusion, so it was nice to see him go six innings and throw 87 pitches. Even though Gray took the loss, he did enough for the quality start and delivered a season-high nine strikeouts.”

This is all after less than one month of baseball in Gray’s first season in the National League. In his first start, against the Pirates in Cincinnati, Gray looked a lot like he did in some of those games last season in New York, where he was bewilderingly bad.

If you think praise for an 0-3 pitcher isn’t remarkable, imagine if Gray were 0-4, like Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox. A big difference is Sale has an ERA of 8.50.

Sale’s biggest critic appears to be Sale.

“I’ve got to find a way to pitch better. This is flat-out embarrassing,” Sale said, according to the Boston Herald. “For my family, for our team, for our fans.”

From an ESPN report, Sale said, “I just flat-out stink right now.”

If the Braves beat Gray on Tuesday, Gray will be 0-4, like Sale. Win or lose, it will be interesting to follow the reviews.

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