This Gio kid is starting to grow on me.
The young left-hander pitched a solid six innings, striking out five and walking one, Mark Ellis recorded the first five-hit game of his career, and the A's took the series opener, 9-1, in a game interrupted by a 52-minute rain delay.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie is surely counting his blessings that he won't have to see the A's anymore this season (not that he's had much success against the rest of the league). In two starts that covered just 5-1/3 innings against Oakland in 2009, Guthrie allowed 11 runs on 18 hits.
That's the same amount of runs that Gonzalez gave up in one outing on July 20, in a start that must seem like ancient history. Growing more confident each time he's called upon, Gonzalez was at his best whenever there was a hint of danger. He had just one inning where he retired the side in order, but only two runners made it as far as third base against him. In four starts since that nightmarish outing against the Twins, Gio is 3-0 and has surrendered just four runs, in nearly 25 innings of work.
Not too shabby.
Such is the case these days for the A's who, save for a seven-game win streak in early June, are playing arguably their best baseball of an otherwise somber season. No post-Holliday blues here; the A's are 10-8 since the July 24 trade that sent Matt Holliday to St. Louis. Not exactly world-beaters, but neither do they resemble the lifeless corpses that we saw all too often earlier in the year.
The A's gave Gonzalez all the run support he'd need in the second. Tommy Everidge started things off with a base hit, and took third on a two-bagger by Ryan Sweeney. Both runners came around to score; the former on a single by Ellis, the latter on a bloop base knock by Cliff Pennington.
Oakland added to its lead with three more scores in the fifth frame. Rajai Davis led off with an infield hit, sped to third on Jack Cust's single, and touched home on Kurt Suzuki's base hit. Two batters later, Cust and Suzuki motored home on Ellis' third hit in as many at-bats to make it 5-nil.
In the bottom half Bob Geren saw something in his starting pitcher to make a move toward the mound, before being waved off by Gonzalez, who proceeded to pitch his first- and only- 1-2-3 inning of the night. He allowed the first two batters to reach base against him in the seventh, when the rain began to fall.
Play finally resumed and Gio returned to the mound in a Craig Breslow costume (it was dead-on, folks). Two fly ball outs did nothing to score Melvin Mora from third as Ryan and Rajai had a throwing contest in the middle of the game. It ended in a tie. Breslow got Nolan Reimold on a comebacker to escape the jam unscathed, then set ‘em down in order in the eighth, before giving way to Jeff Gray.
Gray had four more runs to work with than Breslow did when he took over for Gio, as the A's pushed the lead to 9-0; all runs scoring on two-baggers, courtesy of Suzuki, Sweeney (his drove home two), and Ellis, whose ground-rule double capped off a five-hit, four-RBI night.
The shutout was ruined on Gray's first pitch, as Luke Scott went deep, but a nifty 1-6 double play off the bat of César Izturis finished things off to put the A's in the win column for a second straight day.