Sep 23, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcherSonny Gray
(54) throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Entering Tuesday night’s contest with the Los Angeles Angels, Sonny Gray was entrenched in a rough string of starts, dating back to August 6th. In his nine starts from then until Tuesday, Gray had collected a 1-5 record and a 5.05 ERA to go along with an opponent’s batting average of .278. Tuesday night’s game saw Sonny Gray return to the form that earned him two-time Pitcher of the Month honors in April and July.
Over the course of seven strong innings, Gray allowed just three hits, two runs (one earned), along with three walks and a career-high twelve strikeouts. His previous high had been nine K’s, which Gray had achieved three times. Three of the twelve strikeouts were dealt to AL MVP candidate, Mike Trout. This is the third time Trout has struck out three times in a game against the Athletics this season.
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The Angels scored twice on Gray, once on a solo home run by Gordon Beckham (9) in the sixth, and the other on an odd play in the second. The perpetual thorn in the Athletics’ side, Erick Aybar led off the second with a base hit. Aybar proceeded to steal second base, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Geovany Soto.
C.J. Cron struck out swinging, and Efren Navarro walked. With Hank Conger at the plate, Gray collected his fifth strikeout of the night, while Navarro was attempting to steal. The attempt led to a throw to second from Soto, allowing Aybar to make a mad dash for home, while Navarro stayed in a run down. The A’s recorded two outs on the play, but since the run crossed the plate before the third out was recorded, the run was counted.
The best chance for the A’s to do some damage came in the bottom of the eighth. As they have so many times recently, they loaded the bases. Eric Sogard started the inning with a single to center. After Coco Crisp grounded out, advancing Sogard to second, Sam Fuld lined out for out number two. Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss both drew walks, putting white cleats on every base.
With chants of, “I believe in Stephen Vogt!” echoing around the Coliseum, the first baseman flied out to right, ending the inning, and the Oakland threat. Vogt finished the evening 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. Soto finished the night 0-for-3, grounding into two double plays.
Huston Street came on to work a clean ninth inning, gathering his 16th save for the Halos.
Bright Spots: The A’s can still win this series, and the season series against the Angels with a win on Wednesday. The pitching probables are Jon Lester (16-10, 2.41) versus Hector Santiago (5-9, 3.98). Josh Reddick went 3-for-4 with a double, and the bullpen effort of Dan Otero, Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook combined for two innings pitched, zero hits and just seventeen pitches to record six outs.
The biggest bright spot comes in the form of yet another Seattle Mariner’s loss. Seattle was crushed, yet again, by Toronto, 10-2. Felix Hernandez started the game for the Mariners, and went just 4 2/3 innings, giving up eight earned, including a solo shot to some guy named Dalton Pompey. It was Pompey’s first career home run, and it came against Felix Hernandez, who is in the middle of a pennant race. That should bode well. Anyway, the loss trimmed the A’s magic number to 3.
The A’s can punch their ticket to the playoffs as early as Thursday.