In a season that has been so down for the A's, I find it stunning when they lead the league in any good category, such as "shutouts thrown", but indeed, the A's have thrown their fifteenth shutout in tonight's solid 4-0 win to give Sonny Gray his 13th win of the year and drop his ERA to lead the league, which may matter when it comes to the incredibly close Cy Young vote at the end of the season.
Sonny Gray bounced back nicely from his rough outing last week, pitching seven scoreless, running into a bases-loaded jam in the second, but shutting down the Astros in just about every other frame. Staked to an early 1-0 lead and later a 4-0 lead, Gray wouldn't even crack open the door for Houston. However, he had nothing on his successor, Ryan Dull, against whom Houston couldn't even find the door. His six up, six down 23-pitch two innings to end the game had the Coliseum buzzing.
The vibe was there from the very beginning tonight as Sonny Gray took on Scott Kazmir in what promised to be a pitching duel, and it was. This was a highly-entertaining, well-played baseball game, a rarity for sure in this lost season, but if you are looking to next year, Sonny Gray is the legitimate candidate for the Cy Young, Mark Canha is looking more and more like a breakout baseball player, Billy Butler continued his hot week with a 3-4 day, Billy Burns hit a home run, and the A's might have finally found a member of the bullpen who isn't just terrible. In fact, despite having a name rife for puns, Dull is turning heads.
The turning point in the game came in the top of the second inning, as Gray allowed a double and two walks to load the bases with one out. He ended the inning with a strike out and a pop up to keep Houston off the board. Burns homered in the third (on a poor 0-2 pitch selection by Kazmir) to give the A's the 1-0 lead. Butler tried to help in the fourth as he led off the inning with a nice hit, but he confused himself with someone with average speed, and was thrown out at second base. Luckily, Kazmir walked Semien in the fifth with one out. Semien stole second base, and was held at third on a Burns single, following a nice at-bat. THANK YOU Ron Washington, for perfectly reading the play and with one out, holding Semien back from being thrown out at the plate. I never thought that I would be able to tell the difference in third base coaches. But it is a noticeable difference.
With two runners on, Mark Canha turned on an inside pitch and absolutely rocketed it out to the foul pole. Usually, this ball is foul, but Canha hit it so hard, it had no choice but to be a fair ball, a three-run home run to stake the A's and Gray to a 4-0 lead. They wouldn't need more.
Just for fun (and for the last out of the game), we had a Craig Gentry sighting in left field. You know, I joked yesterday that the thread's title should have been "Doolittle too late", and obviously it is for this season, but next season might, just might, have some things to which we can look forward. And tonight was a good reminder.
AND THEY WON ON MY DAY!
The A's go for the sweep tomorrow night. We'll see you back here with all the action!