By HAL McCOY
Sonny Gray and the Cincinnati Reds bullpen accomplished something Tuesday night in Miller Park that no team has accomplished this season.
The Reds shut out the hard-hitting, high-scoring Milwaukee Brewers, 3-0.
And it wasn’t easy. During his six innings, everywhere Gray looked there were Brewers perched on the bases.
They had two runners on base in four of his six innings, but none discovered home plate and Gray was rewarded with his first victory in a Reds uniform.
“Other than the first inning, when the Reds scored their three runs on three hits against Gio Gonzalez, the Reds had only one hit the rest of the game — a checked-swing dribbler down the third base line by Joey Votto in the eighth inning.
Gray, though, was in shut down mode when shut down was needed. He gave up five hits and walked four. But he struck out nine, many when they were most needed to keep Brewers on the bases and away from touching home plate.
It helped that the Brewers were without Christian Yelich and Travis Shaw. The Reds, though, were without Yasiel Puig (sprained right shoulder).
“This is something I can build on and get better the rest of the year,” said Gray during a post-game interview. “I trusted my pitches to get the outs when I had the runners on base.”
Gio Gonzalez, a recent free agent signing by the Brewers, came into the game with a 2-and-0 record and a 1.62 earned run average.
Rookie Nick Senzel was not impressed. He led the game with a triple over center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s head.
Eugenio Suarez walked and Gonzalez threw a wild pitch to score Senzel. Phillip Ervin, freshly recalled from Class AAA Louisville, drilled a double to score Suarez. Jose Iglesias singled and the third run scored on Kyle Farmer’s ground ball.
That was it. The Reds put their bats away for the rest of the night — one hit, two walks.
It was up to Gray and the bullpen.
And here is how it went for Gray:
FIRST INNING: Lorenzo Cain led the bottom of the first with a double. Gray retired the next two, issued a walk, then retired Eric Thames on a ground ball. Two stranded.
FOURTH INNING: Gray walked Ryan Braun and Yasmani Grandal to start the inning. Then with a 2-and-0 count on Eric Thames, Braun pulled a bonehead. Inexplicably, he tried to steal third base and Curt Casali threw him out.
Instead of two on and nobody out, the Brewers had one on and one out. Thames grounded out for the second out and he struck out rookie Keston Hiura.
FIFTH: Gray struck out the first two then gave up singles to pinch-hitter Brandon Woodruff and Lorenzo Cain. Mike Moustakas flied to center. Two stranded.
SIXTH: Ryan Bruan started the inning with a single. Gray struck out Grandal and Thames, but Hiura poked a ground ball squibber to the right side against the shift for a hit. Gray struck out Ben Gamel. Two stranded.
That was it for Gray, but David Hernandez, Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias finished it off to preserve Gray’s first win against five losses, although Iglesias gave up a leadoff single in the ninth but bailed himself out by starting a 1-6-3 double play to end it.
Hernandez pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts. Garrett issued a walk but struck out the side in the eighth. There was a defining moment for Garrett. With two outs and one on he had to face Eric Thames. Thames was 4 for 4 with three home runs against Garrett. Thames had no chance. Garrett struck him out.
“I did some soul-searching in the off-season, asking myself if I wanted to be good or if I wanted to be great,” said Garrett in a post-game interview with Fox Sports Ohio. “I looked in the mirror and decided I wanted to be great.” In his last eight innings Garrett has not given up a run and struck out 17.
The Brewers were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners. The Reds with 2 for 5 with runners in scoring position and stranded only three because, well, they didn’t have many on base after the first inning.
The shutout was the seventh by Reds pitching this season, most in the National League. In addition to not being shut out this season, the Brewers had no been shut out at Miller Park in 81 games.
Retribution? The Brewers shut out the Reds five times last year. And in the first three games this year at Great American Ball Park, the Brewers won three straight one-run games, 4-3, 4-3, 1-0.