Reds pitcher Sonny Gray: ‘We very much miss the fans'

Reds starter Sonny Gray throws the first pitch of the season against the Tigers on Opening Day on Friday, July 24, 2020, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Starter allows one run in six innings on Opening Day

Crowd noise played over the loudspeakers at Great American Ball Park throughout Opening Day. It was white noise for the most part and barely noticeable at times.

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When C.J. Cron, of the Detroit Tigers, hit a home run, the decibel level didn’t rise or drop. However, when the Reds scored, the noise level climbed, and they scored often, recording a 7-1 victory in an empty stadium to start the 60-game season.

“It was one of those days we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” starting pitcher Sonny Gray said, “as an organization, as a team and personally as a player and as a competitor. We miss the fans. We very much miss the fans. That is for sure. However, we are completely invested as a team in each other. We’ve got a good thing going here in Cincinnati. We got a little bit of a show of that tonight of what we’re trying to do here.

Gray struck out nine and allowed one run on three hits in six innings. In his first season as a Red in 2019, he was the team’s most dependable starter, posting an 11-8 record and 2.87 ERA. He showed Friday why manager David Bell picked him to start the opener.

“A lot of great things happened tonight,” Bell said. “You have to start with Sonny Gray getting the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day. He prepared himself for it. There’s nothing more to say than he stepped up and did exactly what we asked him to do.”

Big-league debut: Shogo Akiyama didn’t earn the start on his first Opening Day with the Reds but made history as a pinch hitter.

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Akiyama became the first Japanese player to appear in a game for the Reds when he singled to drive in Freddy Galvis with two outs in the sixth. The hit extended Cincinnati’s lead to 5-1. Akiyama stayed in the game to play left field.

“It was unfortunate I couldn’t play from the beginning,” Akiyama said through an interpreter, “but from Arizona to here, I wasn’t able to hit lefties, and that’s why I was utilized in this role.”

Postgame scene: Nick Castellanos went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk in his Reds debut. Travis Jankowski pinch ran for Castellanos and stayed in the game to play right field.

After the game, Castellanos didn’t return to the clubhouse with his teammates but walked to right field and paced back and forth for 20 minutes, talking to coach Jeff Pickler for some of that time. Then Pickler started hitting him fly balls. David Bell even came out at one point to talk to Castellanos as he practiced.

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