Cards’ Sonny Gray faces former team in series with Reds

After struggling through his first two starts of June, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Sonny Gray vowed to pitch more aggressively.

“There’s definitely a mindset shift,” he said.

Gray (9-4, 2.81 ERA) will try to keep that new focus when he faces the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Saturday in the third game of a four-game series.

The Reds won 11-4 on Thursday, and the Cardinals answered with a 1-0 victory Friday for their sixth victory in eight games.

Gray allowed a combined seven runs on seven hits and seven walks in 9 2/3 innings while losing to the Phillies at Philadelphia and at home to the Colorado Rockies to begin June. In his three starts since then, he held opponents to four runs on 10 hits in 21 2/3 innings.

He struck out 21 during that span and walked only three.

“He’s a guy that if he says it, he’s going to do it. That’s what he’s showing,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He said he wanted to be on the attack.”

Gray said mechanical adjustments also contributed to his turnaround.

“There’s also kind of what I’m trying to do with the baseball … is a little bit of a shift as well,” Gray said. “I’m not trying to manipulate it as much with certain things. And yet, I know that’s when I’m at my best is when I do go in with that mindset. I’m just going to continue down this road and not let it get away from me this time.”

Gray, who pitched for the Reds for three seasons, didn’t face Cincinnati when the teams played earlier this season. In his career, Gray has made one start against the Reds, in 2016 while he was pitching for the Oakland Athletics. He is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA against Cincinnati.

The Reds will start Carson Spiers (1-1, 3.45 ERA). He has a 5.25 ERA in his past two starts, with seven runs allowed on 14 hits in 12 innings. He struck out 10 and walked two.

Spiers earned his first big-league victory while meeting the quality start metric against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday. He allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings while striking out five and walking one.

Establishing good command early was the key to that performance.

“Coming out of the gate, getting in the zone, mixing well early, that was kind of a big thing for me to get me settled in,” Spiers said.

He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two career appearances against the Cardinals, including one start.

The Reds’ offense has been bolstered in this series by the return of Noelvi Marte from his 80-game PED suspension.

“He’s a hell of a player, hell of a talent,” said Reds second baseman Jonathan India, who extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Friday. “He’s coming out swinging like he usually does. It’s big for this lineup.”

The Cardinals made a bullpen adjustment Friday, promoting Gordon Graceffo for his first big-league look and sending Kyle Leahy to Memphis to make room for him.

Reds outfielder Jake Fraley was out of the starting lineup again Friday with a calf contusion. “We just have to be a little careful with him so it doesn’t turn into anything like a muscle strain,” Reds manager David Bell said

Also missing Friday were catcher Tyler Stephenson, who is away from the team on paternity leave, and third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who is battling knee tendinitis.

–Field Level Media