Sonny Gray has pitched in Arlington before. (I just want an excuse to relive that as many times as possible).
With a chance at a sweep, a 5 game winning streak, and a chance to push trade rumors out by one more day, the A's sent ace Sonny Gray to the mound against the Texas Rangers. What more could you ask for?
From the get go, however, it was clear that Sonny didn't have his best stuff. Like his last outing, he didn't locate particularly well, his stuff lacked the electricity that has made him the Cy Young favorite this year, and he labored all day long. The Rangers first got on the board in the fourth, on a Mitch Moreland blast to deep center. As discussed in the Game Thread, Mitch Moreland is the absolute worst. Against the A's, Moreland possesses an OPS+ of 135; his normal OPS+ is 100. He is Colby Lewis in hitter form, minus a few pounds and not as terrible.
The Rangers tacked on a second run, thanks to a Joey Gallo double (an absolute shot that smoked Ike Davis on the right arm and still managed to role all the way to deep right) and a groundball single to leftfield. It was a run that didn't need to be, and were it one month ago, a run we would be talking about sinking the A's. But thankfully, it's not.
While Sonny certainly didn't look great, his ability to turn in a quality start without his best stuff is impressive and awesome. Sonny battled all day and proved why he is one of the best pitchers in the league. His ERA still sits just a shade over 2.00, and his outing today showed the value of one of the best pitchers on one of the best staffs in the league.
Through the first 4 innings, the A's were predictably offensively stagnant. This was of course, completely expected as today's day game opponent was none other than Colby Lewis, owner of a 3.01 ERA (prior to today) against the A's. Colby has all the makings of a guy who dominates the A's: he's been around a decently long time, he's a bit of a journeyman, and of course, he's bad. Sidenote: who remembers when he pitched for us? Baseball reference tells me he pitched in 26 games for our 2007 team. I'm skeptical.
The A's managed a single baserunner in those first four frames, a Josh Reddick single which was promptly erased by a Brett Lawrie GIDP in the second. It was a horrible offensive start for the A's, with Lewis facing the minimum number of hitters. Texas play by play announcer Eric Nadel said it best, when he exclaimed "Eric Sogard bats second for the Athletics". Yeah.
But, as they've done so many times during this 5 game winning streak, and as we've seen during this team's winning ways the past month, the A's fought back, mostly thanks to the wild ways of Colby Lewis. In the top of the fifth, trailing 2-0, Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, and Ike Davis walked the bases loaded (with a Josh Reddick flyout in the middle). With the bases loaded and 1 out, Marcus Semien lined out to short, holding the runners at their respective bases. That brought Sam Fuld to the plate with 2 outs and the bases still loaded. I believe in Sam for many things: I believe in his defense, I believe he's a superbly nice guy, I believe him when he says he has diabetes, but I definitely am skeptical when it comes to his hitting. On a 3-2 pitch, Sam belted a much needed single up the middle, plating two runs and picking up Marcus Semien's RISPfail. It was a beautiful at bat in an inning filled with beautiful at bats, and it was absolutely the sign of a team firing on all cylinders. Just like that, the A's had the game tied at 2-2 with a chance to bust it open. Unfortunately for the A's, Billy Burns flew out to right to end the threat.
Shutdown innings aren't really an important stat, and the A's pitching staff continues to agree. In the bottom of the frame, the Rangers tacked on a run thanks to a Prince Fielder double and a Mitch Moreland single. Just like that, the lead was gone.
The A's didn't wait long to get it back, however, as they did so in the top of the sixth. Eric Sogard led off with a bunt single to third. I'm not a baseball expert, but if you allow Eric Sogard to bunt a single off you, you're doing something wrong. Anyway, Stephen Vogt followed with a single to center, and Zobrist followed that with a BABIP single to short to load the bases. Josh Reddick got the run home with a crushed sacrifice fly to right, and the A's were back tied. Unfortunately, the A's failed again with RISP and less than two outs, as Brett Lawrie struck out with a runner at third, and Ike Davis launched a pinballed 1-4-3 single play, a linedrive that hit the pitcher and bounced straight to second. In Ike's defense, he hit the ball well, however the A's were out of a potential multirun situation with a single run yet again. If we lose today, we're bitching about this missed opportunity. But we didn't, of course, and now it's just another place where we can improve our already awesome team.
The A's pushed across their winning runs in a three run 7th. Semien and Fuld quickly struck and popped out to start the frame, but with 2 outs, the A's got the action rolling. Billy Burns hit a hilarious single to left to get the A's rolling. For some reason unknown to everyone in the world, he did not steal second, but got there anyway thanks to an Eric Sogard single to center. Stephen Vogt singled off the pitcher to load the bases. There is currently no stat for most times making contact with the pitcher, but if there were, the A's would no doubt lead that category. Ben Zobrist followed Vogt with a walk to plate the go ahead run for the A's, and Josh Reddick rolled a single into right field to drive in runs 5 and 6. Reddick's single, while markedly unimpressive, was against a LHP. A great inning all around.
Let's take a moment to enjoy people who are paid to be athletic, doing very unathletic things:
Following Sonny's departure in the 7th, Drew Pomeranz stepped in to take care of business for the A's, getting four tough outs including Prince Fielder and walking dichotomy Joey Gallo, all while allowing a single hit. Eduardo Mujica finished the 8th by inducing two flyballs, and Clippard pitched a clean, albeit uninspiring ninth to preserve the win. The bullpen hasn't been dominant, but it has been at least been serviceable during our current stretch, the last piece of this unpredictable puzzle.
Not in last place. New season high winning streak. Only 7 games under .500. Beating and sweeping a division rival? Not bad for a days work.
Remember to kindly thank Nico and his mother, for turning the season around for the A's and all of us fans. Remember, the game isn't played out there. It's played in the heart. And for that, I thank you, Mrs. Nico's Mom. You are truly a Mother I'll Love Forever.