By Morris Phillips
Hey, a solo shot’s no big deal.
Sonny Gray and Mike Yastrzemski, college roommates at Vanderbilt a decade ago, didn’t have an opportunity to hash it out on Monday night. Yaz took Gray deep in the fifth inning to put the Giants up, 4-0, but by that point, the Reds couldn’t catch the ball, and the Giants were in full swing, doing their traveling home run show thing.
In other words, bigger issues were at hand then reminiscing about old conversations in college.
“I don’t think it fazed him,” Yastrzemski said of Gray’s reaction to the home run among friends. “We always talked about it and he said if I hit a homer in a game off him, it had to be a solo shot. So I don’t think he’s too mad about it. It’s something I hope we’ll eventually look back and give each other grief about and have fun with it.”
Just not on Monday. What was more pressing were the Reds’ recent struggles that have them losing lopsided contests, while the Giants have been surging, just what’s been needed to keep the club in first place with the Padres and Dodgers breathing down their necks.
After the 6-3 Giants win at Great American Ballpark, Gray was dead serious while reliving his inability to keep the hard-hitting Giants from going deep while needing to explain his defenses shortcomings behind him. For the record, Gray allowed two home runs while the Reds committed two damaging errors.
“A pitcher’s job is to continue to try to make pitches, make competitive pitches and continue to try to force soft contact,” Gray admitted. “There were some plays that maybe could have been made that weren’t. It was just sloppy. Like I said, it started with me.”
Gray surrendered a walk and two singles in a busy first inning that didn’t go wrong until Jonathan India couldn’t field Brandon Crawford’s ground ball cleanly, and compounded his mistake with an errant throw allowing Buster Posey to score the game’s first run.
In the fourth, Wilmer Flores went opposite field off Gray to put the Giants up 3-0, but the blast was preceded by Eugenio Suarez’ fielding error that allowed Crawford to reach. Yastrzemski’s homer came an inning later, the culmination of Gray’s outing that wasn’t good enough above or below the surface.
The Giants flew above the minutiae with the homers, now numbering 39 away from Oracle Park, which leads the majors in home runs hit by a club on the road. That the total didn’t stall at the cozy, riverfront ballpark made a statement. The Giants hit ’em, and combined with stingy defense and pitching, a winning formula has emerged.
So far, it’s a formula that’s kept the more talented Dodgers and Padres in the rear view. All three clubs won Monday, and the Giants maintained their division lead, a half game better than San Diego, and two games ahead of the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, the Reds are 6-6 in their last 12 games, but they’ve allowed at least six runs in each of the losses, none of which have been by fewer than three runs, including 9-2 and 9-0 routs. The Reds have gone more than a month with a losing record, having last been over .500 on April 21.
Logan Webb enjoyed his best start if the season, cruising through six, scoreless innings by keeping Reds’ hitters off balance with a nice mix of sinkers, sliders and fastballs delivered at an aggressive pace. Webb was tight-lipped about the strategy after the game, with the exception of extolling his quick pace. He also clarified his abrupt exit, saying his shoulder soreness concerned manager Gabe Kapler enough that he lifted his pitcher despite the fact he still had plenty in his tank.
Kapler said the Giants will conduct tests on Webb’s shoulder in the coming days, but he didn’t seem concerned that his pitcher could miss time.
The Giants continue their four-game set in Cincinnati on Tuesday with Anthony DeSclafani facing the struggling Luis Castillo, saddled with a 1-5 record and 7.71 ERA.