Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray works against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 14, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
By Matthew Harrington
OAKLAND, Calif. – The good news for Oakland A’s fans is that Sonny Gray pitched like his former Cy Young contender self in a 5-0 win over the visiting Cleveland Indians Friday night. The bad news is it means he may be pitching his way out of Green and Gold.
While rumors of a trade of the A’s ace to the Chicago Cubs were twirling around Twitter, Gray was spinning a gem to outduel Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and his 10 K’s. Gray fired six scoreless innings with 4 punch outs and two-hits to Carrasco’s six hits and five runs. Yonder Alonso and Rajai Davis both hit solo homeruns in a two-run 5th inning. Matt Joyce and Marcus Semien also knocked in runs in a two-run 3rd. Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla struck out 6 Indians out of the bullpen in an inning each to close out the win.
“It’s one of those things that you just have to deal with sometimes,” said Gray on late rumors that he was a scratch for the start and movement was imminent. “Whatever happens, happens. It’s out of my control.”
Gray (5-4) didn’t allow a hit until Cleveland had one out in the top of the third. He’d give up another in the inning, but escape unscathed. From there the Indians were hitless over Gray’s in-game tenure, with the righty departing after the 6th after throwing 100 pitches, 62 for strikes.
The 27-year-old hurler has now pitched in four-straight contests allowing 2 runs or fewer. During that stretch he has lowered his ERA over a full-point from 4.84 to 3.72. He’s pitched at least 6 innings in all of those starts, rebounding from a 5 inning, 5 run loss to the Astros June 20th.
“He’s pitched really well since he’s come back,” Said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “He’s had a couple bad innings, but the stuff has been there. When he’s gotten onto a roll pitching deeper into games and being healthy we’re seeing what we’re getting right now. We’ve seen it before. He pitched really well.”
The A’s (40-50) also were being no-hit by Carrasco into the 3rd, but Rajai Davis kick started the offense with a single. He scored from first base after Matt Joyce ripped a ball into the gap in right center. Davis originally hesitated rounding 2nd, but decided to go for home. Bradley Zimmer’s throw crept towards the first base side of the plate, but Yan Gomes dove back to the plate to make the tag. His mitt connected with the hand of a head-first sliding Davis a beat too late for a 1-0 lead. Joyce took third on the throw home and would score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.
“(Davis) can impact the game in any number of ways,” said Melvin. “With Jaycob Brugman being sick today he got a start against a righty, a guy that he’s had some at-bats against. His best work has come here these last five or six games.”
Carrasco (10-4) allowed a single to Bruce Maxwell in the bottom of the 4th, but nothing came of it for the A’s. The last of the 5th started off with a bang though, with Davis taking Carrasco deep for his 3rd homer of the season. Davis, who provided the Game 7 heroics with a homer of Aroldis Chapman as a member of the Indians in the World Series last year, hit a looping fly ball over the out of town scoreboard in left for a 3-0 lead.
“It was definitely like a reunion,” said Davis.
After the next two hitters struck out, Oakland’s lone 2017 All-Star Yonder Alonso continued the downhill half of the season with his 21st homer of the season on a no-doubter to right-center field. Alonso’s 21 homers are more than double his single-season best of 9 as a member of the Padres in 2012 and good for more than 1/3 of his 8 year career total of 60. Like Gray, due to his upcoming free agency, Alonso may be playing his way onto a contender come July 31st.
The A’s scored another run charged to Carrasco after Matt Chapman smoked a triple to open the bottom of the 7th. Carrasco gave way to a pair of relievers after 6 1/3, with righty Nick Goody’s wild pitch closing the book on his pitching line after Chapman crossed home.
Brentwood Native Paul Blackburn draws the unenviable task of taking the hill Saturday against Cleveland’s 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber for the middle game of the two-game series. Sean Manaea looks to continue his bounce-back season with his first start of the second half, drawing a match-up against Drone enthusiast Trevor Bauer.