The A's scored seven runs in all three games this series, but today that number was more than enough. Although with this bullpen, even a seven run lead in the ninth isn't safe as Bob Melvin needed two relievers to escape a bases loaded jam in the final frame to seal the win. Tack on 14 total runners stranded today by the Rangers and this contest could have gone a whole 'nother direction. A win is a win, however, and despite the disparate score this was not without some drama.
Sonny Gray's day started like any other for our consummate Ace, but soon devolved into a rather odd outing. He struck out the first batter Leonys Martin before making a Gold Glove-caliber play, only thing is, he didn't use his glove to make it. Elvis Andrus hit a chopper towards the mound as Sonny fell to his left after his follow-through. As the ball bounded over the mound Sonny stuck his throwing hand out and snagged the ball out of mid-air, and with comfortable ease threw the ball to first for the put out. If a highlight could ever be characterized as nonchalant this is it. After quick confirmation that Sonny's hand was OK, Sonny ended the inning with another put-out, but this time used his glove.
Outside of Sonny's defense, the first two innings went quietly before both teams threatened in the third. In the top of the inning Billy Burns hit a scorcher that ricocheted off of Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo's glove that, lets be honest, Sonny would have fielded. Marcus Semien then hit a bullet to deep center that Martin tracked down for a great catch (the first of many great defensive plays by the Rangers today) followed by a Josh Reddick walk. After a Canha fly out, Stephen Vogt came to the plate with Burns on second and Reddick on first. An astute prediction from kyrbyr suggested a double-steal, which the A's attempted, but Reddick was caught at second to end the inning.
The Rangers threat in the bottom of the third came after Sonny struck out Rougned Odor and fielded an easy put out from Martin. With two outs Sonny uncharacteristically gave up back-to-back walks to Andrus (during which time the Arlington stadium said Sonny threw an 800 mph ball) and Prince Fielder. The threat was quickly averted with a pop out from Adrian Beltre, but at this point Sonny had three walks without a 1-2-3 inning to start the game.
Today Andy Fletcher was behind home plate representing Major League Baseball and thus responsible for calling balls and strikes. Going into the fourth inning the A's were perhaps frustrated believing Sonny was getting squeezed, hence the three early walks. This frustration boiled over when Sam Fuld struck out looking to end the A's half of the inning. He slammed his bat down on the plate, actually breaking it as he yelled at Fletcher. More shouts came from the A's as Fletcher actually starting walking towards the Oakland dugout as if he was looking to start a confrontation. Bob Melvin came out to calm things down, but unbeknownst to the majority of those watching the game Craig Gentry was thrown out of the game during this altercation. Overall an odd sequence of events going into the commercial break.
Returning to the bottom of fourth, this game would witness why Sonny truly is worthy of the title Ace. Shin-Soo Choo would lead off the inning with a double over Fuld's head, followed by a wild pitch to Kyle Blanks sending Choo to third. A walk to Blanks made it men at the corners and zero out. The ever-confident Ace would then strike out Carlos Peguero, but not before Blanks stole second. Calmly, Sonny glanced a ball off of Carlos Corporan's knee to load the bases with one out. Never phased, Sonny induced back-to-back ground outs; first Odor in a fielders choice to get the out at home, before Martin ended the inning. Sonny coolly walked backed to the dugout, has cap in the signature tipped up position, having stranded three Rangers without allowing a run.
Now it was time for the A's to score some runs. The team would steal one in the fifth when Andrus made an error throwing the ball away on a hard hit grounder by Reddick that allowed Sogard to score. Then in the sixth Vogt would lead off with a solo-shot to make it 2-0 A's entering the bottom of the sixth. Again, Sonny would face adversity as Fuld would drop an easy fly ball to commit the ninth outfield error this season for the A's (Melvin lost a challenge based on the transfer rule). But Sonny would bear down, of course, striking out Corporan and Odor to strand two more Rangers runners.
This game was looking like another nail-biter, and by that I mean bullpen heartbreaker, but a two-out rally in the seventh would blow it open for the A's. After ground outs by Burns and Semien, Reddick singled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. This was followed by a Canha walk that finally chased Gallardo from the game. In came Alex Claudio, who had pitched in the first two games of this series, too. He promptly gave up a three run homer to Vogt, his second of the day, to make it 5-0 A's.
At this point, the Warriors game was ending and the comparatively quiet comment section suddenly blew up with adulation as fans realized Sonny had a 5-run lead in the seventh inning. Those cheers quickly turned to fears, however, as everyone realized Sonny was sitting at 113 pitches after giving up back-to-back walks for the second time today. Sonny had never thrown more than 118 pitches in a Major League game and he was laboring, but he would muscle up for one final strikeout, his tenth of the day, before Melvin replaced him with Dan Otero. This was Otero's fifth consecutive day with an appearance, but he had thrown only 25 total pitches in that span. Thankfully, Otero would induce Choo into a pop-out, and with a collective exhale from A's fans the Rangers would strand two more runners.
After a quiet eighth, red-hot Reddick would give the A's two more insurance runs in the ninth with a monster home run way over the 407 sign in right-center. That almost stilled the bullpen chatter in the comments, but the 2015 A's simply cannot have an uneventful ninth inning. Chad Smith pitched a fine eighth for his Oakland debut, but in the ninth he immediately gave up single-walk-single to load the bases with nobody out. R.J. Alvarez was called on to finish the game. He would strike out Beltre before Choo would hit a ball that was oh so close to going out that Reddick had his back against the wall when he made the catch. It was a sacrifice fly, but could have been so much worse. In the end, Blanks would ground out, stranding three more Rangers runners for 14 total on the day. Today the Rangers were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Sonny Gray gets the win with 6.2 innings pitched, two hits, zero runs, 10 Ks, and a career-high 7 walks. Rarely has Sonny been so effective, yet wild with the walks, one HPB, and a wild pitch. The bullpen, for all our consternation, was effective, going 2.1 innings giving up only two hits and one run.
I've never been so nervous for a 7-run lead in the ninth inning. This week the team heads to Minneapolis to face the Twins in the second stint of this 10-game road trip.
- this was was first win for the A's this season playing in a day game
- this was the first win for the A's this season in the final game of a series
- Reddick extended his hitting streak to 11 games
- Gray extended his scoreless innings streak in Arlington to 24.2 (is that right?)
- the A's won for the first time during one of my game threads!