By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Those weren’t gray clouds hanging over Sonny Gray’s shoulders Sunday afternoon in Great American Ball Park.
Those were black clouds, dark black clouds, punctuated by the black jerseys worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates on a bat-chilling day, a day during which the Reds committed as many errors (4) as they had hits (4) while getting shut out, 5-0.
Gray made his Cincinnati Reds pitching debut Sunday after signing a three-year $30.5 contract in the off-season and fans who came to see him caught only a quick, fleeting and fleeing glimpse.
Gray faced only 18 batters in 2 2/3 innings and 11 reached base as the Pirates scored a run in each of Gray’s innings.
His biggest perplexity was control. While giving up three runs and five hits he walked four and hit a batter. His biggest nemesis was opposing pitcher Trevor Williams who singled in a run and walked with the bases loaded.
“I didn’t throw strikes from the git-go,” said Gray. “I just didn’t throw enough strikes. That was it. I felt good, I just didn’t get it done.
“I mean, the defense sits out there on the field for 20 to 25 minutes every half inning it is going to hard to get something going offensively,” Gray added.
Indeed, there was no offense on the Cincinnati side and Gray absorbed all the blame.
“Just not a good performance by me,” he said. “I threw 10 innings in spring (training) and didn’t walk a guy. I threw 2 2/3s innings today and walked four and hit one. I didn’t put guys away.”
Gray didn’t even throw half his pitches for strikes — 71 pitches, 34 strikes and heard a few catcalls and boos from his new fan base.
His father was a dedicated Reds fan and Gray remembers his dad taking him to games and parking in Northern Kentucky, “And we’d walk over a bridge and some river,” said Gray.
That river is the Ohio and on this day he put enough runners on base to stage a parade across it on that bridge he and his dad used.
“From my vantage point it looked as if he was missing with a lot of pitches,” said manager David Bell of Gray’s mishap. “He had to work harder than you’d like to see him work. He wasn’t missing much, but that extra work because he was just missing caught up to him.”
The Reds were fortunate the Pirates didn’t score in double figures. Pittsburgh stranded 11 runners in the first six innings.
Meanwhile the Reds weren’t stranding many because they didn’t have many to strand over five innings against Williams.
They had one hit, a single by Tucker Barnhart in the third, and a walk issued to Yasiel Puig.
The Reds finally put two runners on base in the sixth, an infield single by Jose Iglesias and a two-out single by Joey Votto.
That brought up Puig, the potential tying run, but he struck out on three pitches, the last pitch at eye-level and far outside.
Williams left after six innings — no runs, three hits, one walk, six strikeouts on the mound plus a run-scoring single and a run-scoring walk at the plate as he looked more like Ted Williams than Trevor Williams.
The media kept trying to give Gray an excuse by asking him about the cold weather and the extra day off after Saturday’s postponement. But none of that bothered Williams.
“William was very impressive, he can pitch,” said Bell. “He did his job, for sure.”
And the Reds did nothing against the Pittsburgh bullpen over the final three innings, just a one-out double by Joey Votto and a two-out walk to Eugenio Suarez in the ninth before Matt Kemp took a called third strike to finish his day at 0 for 4 and end it for the Reds.