Last night, Sonny Gray made his first appearance out of the bullpen in over five years. He did a fine job, too, hurling three shutout innings against the White Sox. He racked up four strikeouts while allowing just one hit and walk apiece.
While that may not seem like much, some context is important. The Yankees found themselves caught in an extra-innings battle against a terrible team. The Bombers have displayed a tendency to lose those games this season. Plus, that stretch of absolutely dreadful baseball lingers in recent memory. Dropping last night’s game would indicate that the Yankees were still lost.
This outing had to be significant for Gray, too. The 28-year-old found himself in the midst of a disastrous season. He owned a 5.56 ERA with a 4.40 FIP heading into last night. Those repeated shellings cost him his place in the starting rotation. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman also recently questioned Gray’s ability to perform in New York and expressed his overall disappointment with the acquisition. That’s nightmare stuff for the right-hander.
Coming out of the bullpen and helping the Yankees secure a hard-fought win must have felt good for Gray. You could tell by his emotions on the mound. He was fired up after that final inning! Following the game, he broke down his performance to reporters:
Sonny Gray: Tonight was big for me personally and us as a team. pic.twitter.com/h5Phtkybz9— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 8, 2018
Longtime Pinstripe Alley readers know that I am a Sonny Gray apologist. I’m thrilled he had a strong outing. Hopefully this marks the start of a turnaround for him. Maybe he straightens it out and becomes a key rotation piece down the stretch. Or perhaps he can round out the Yankees’ bullpen as a dangerous relief weapon, sort of like Phil Hughes in 2009. Who knows, that could have been all smoke and mirrors and he’ll go back to the unwatchable Gray we witnessed all season long.
Regardless, I’m happy for him, and he deserves credit for saving last night’s game.