As the Cincinnati Reds move deeper toward a postseason berth, Sonny Gray is back to help the cause.
The Reds' star right-hander comes off the injured list on Tuesday night in this continuation of a key home series against the National League Central rival Milwaukee Brewers.
Gray (5-3, 3.94 ERA) was one of the best pitchers in the majors entering September, going 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA in seven starts. That included a mark of 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA against Milwaukee (26-27).
However, in his two starts this month versus St. Louis and the Chicago Cubs, Gray has allowed 11 runs, 11 hits, and six walks, while striking out five in just four innings.
Three days after his most recent start on Sept. 10, Gray was placed on the injured list with a mid-back strain. But now he is back and apparently healthy enough.
Gray also believes he can improve from his last two outings and help get the Reds (28-27) to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
"Didn't feel great rotating to the right and then rotating to the left," Gray said, describing his back issues. "It gave me that 'humph' feeling. Definitely the right move (to go on the injured list).
"I feel ready to roll, man. I'm excited to get back. I'm excited to take the mound. Feeling really good. Feeling no limitations," Gray added.
That's good news for the Reds, who beat Milwaukee 6-3 on Monday for their eighth win in nine games. Both clubs are in the mix for a playoff spot -- either as a wild card or by finishing second in the NL Central. Cincinnati is one game ahead of Milwaukee for third place in the division.
"It's an important time and an important game," said Cincinnati manager David Bell, whose team is above .500 for the first time since its win on Opening Day.
In eight career starts against the Brewers, Gray is 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA, including 58 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.
Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas hit two of Cincinnati's three homers on Monday. A former Brewer, Moustakas has five RBIs in his last two games and is hitting .353 (6-for-17) against his former team in 2020.
Milwaukee stars Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun are a combined 6-for-19 against Gray. Yelich was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks Monday, and is 8-for-20 over the last seven games for the Brewers, who had their four-game winning streak snapped in Monday's series opener.
Despite the loss, Milwaukee is 10-9 this month. The Brewers, aiming for a third straight postseason berth, have gone 49-23 in September games going back to 2018.
"This is our part of the season that we do well and that we're comfortable in," pitching coach Chris Hook said.
The Brewers are scheduled to turn to Brett Anderson (3-3, 4.38) for this contest. The left-hander has endured an inconsistent season, but did well on Tuesday, allowing two runs over six innings of an 18-3 rout of the Cardinals.
Anderson is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA against the Reds this season. In six career starts against Cincinnati, he is 3-2 with a 4.88 ERA.
Cincinnati's Nick Castellanos is batting .357 (5-for-14) against Anderson for his career.
--Field Level Media