Right-hander Sonny Gray will start the opener of a four-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night as the Cincinnati Reds continue their push for a playoff berth.
Gray (3-6, 4.26 ERA) is 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA in eight career appearances and seven starts against Pittsburgh. The Pirates, coming in off a 4-2 loss to NL Central leading Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon, will counter with right-hander Wil Crowe (3-5, 5.40 ERA) who is 3-1 with a 4.04 ERA over his last seven games and will be facing the Reds for the first time in his career.
Cincinnati closed to within four games of the second wild-card spot in the National League with a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon while the San Diego Padres lost 5-4 to the Oakland A’s in 10 innings.
The victory over the Twins was meaningful for manager David Bell’s squad because it started about 12 hours after the Reds dropped a tough 7-5 decision to Minnesota on a three-run ninth-inning homer by Jorge Polanco.
“Very important (to bounce back),” said catcher Tyler Stephenson, whose solo homer in the seventh inning proved to be the winning run. “(Tuesday night’s loss) was heartbreaking.”
“I talk about how the players on this team bounce back after a tough loss,” said Bell. “We’ve seen it over and over again. I think it’s something to really embrace, and it’s something to really appreciate.”
It looked like Cincinnati’s leaky bullpen might blow another game on Wednesday when the Twins scored four times in the eighth to cut it to 6-5 and had runners at second and third with two outs. But Michael Lorenzen, who struck out pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson just before Max Kepler doubled, got out of the jam by striking out Brent Rooker.
Lorenzen then finished a five-out save in the ninth by striking out Polanco to start the inning and getting Miguel Sano to ground into a game-ending double play after Luis Arraez had singled.
It was the first save of the season for Lorenzen who began the season on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain and then went on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring injury suffered while scoring the game-tying run as the designated runner in the 10th inning of an eventual 7-4 loss to the Brewers on July 17 in his season debut.
“It was a long journey,” said Lorenzen. “All those months in Arizona, to fight back and then have to go back on the IL for 11 days, and thank God it was only for 11 days. When I got hurt, I thought I was done for the season.
“I’m just grateful to get every opportunity that I can to just compete and attack hitters. I’m blessed, man.”
“Not too many guys can do what he did,” said Bell. “He had to work hard in the eighth there. It wasn’t easy. So to be able to get the final five outs of the game, and the way he did it, it just says so much about who he is, his talent and the way he competes. It was a great effort.”
Pittsburgh, which is just 18-37 on the road, lost two of its three games at Milwaukee. One bright spot for the Pirates was the play of outfielder Hoy Park, obtained in a trade with the Yankees on July 26. Park went 3-for-8 with three RBIs over the final two games while batting leadoff and playing both center and right field.
“One of the things we like about him is the fact he is very versatile,” said manager Derek Shelton. “We like the versatility and we like the bat. He’s going to get an opportunity in different spots. The initial impression is he’s done a nice job.”
–Field Level Media