Spring game #8: Sonny shines against the south siders; Offense comes alive in 12-3 slugfest

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The Oakland A's pitching staff struck out a combined 14 hitters; and the offense managed to put up a single-run or more, in eight of the nine frames.

Sonny Gray tossed three outstanding innings for the green and gold; while Oakland received contributions from each starter in the lineup -- except for Billy Butler, whose status with the Athletics is in jeopardy at this point after a disappointing 2015 campaign. The A's front-office isn't afraid to shop the three-year $30 million man; and with the recent production from Andrew Lambo and Jake Smolinski at the plate, Butler's days in the green and gold could be numbered.

Innings 1-3:

Sam Fuld and Chad Pinder set the tone for the Athletics offense -- with back-to-back hits off of White Sox starter Jacob Turner; putting men on second and third for Josh Reddick. Reddick, followed with a chopper to third-baseman Todd Frazier -- and as a result, Fuld was unfortunately caught in a rundown after immediately breaking for the plate upon contact. Pinder took advantage of this miscue and was able to nab third-base, establishing runners on the corners for Danny Valencia -- who came up clutch yet again for Oakland with a two-strike RBI single down the left-field line, giving the A's a 1-0 lead.

Sonny Gray looked absolutely spectacular in his 2016 Cactus League debut for Oakland, as he quickly retired Trevor May and former-Athletic Brett Lawrie on back-to-back strike outs, before inducing a ground out from the power-hitting Jose Abreu. After Reddick's two-run triple in the top of the second, the White Sox began a rally of their own -- with back-to-back hits from Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, before Avisail Garcia lined a sharp single to right-field -- cutting Oakland's lead down to one.

Stephen Vogt responded with a bunt-single down the third-base line, and Josh Phegley capitalized, by smoking an up-and-in fastball to the right-centerfield gap -- allowing Vogt to score from first and ultimately ending Turner's time on the hill. South paw Zach Phillips couldn't stop the bleeding, as Joey Wendle and Fuld connected for RBI singles, increasing the Athletics lead by five.

Innings 4-6:

After a quick third inning from Gray, Oakland's offense plated three-runs in the middle innings -- thanks to an RBI single from Vogt, a sac-fly from Matt Olson, and a towering solo-shot to left field from Lambo, his second of the spring.

Felix Doubront stole the show for the Athletics, by striking out the side in the fourth inning -- which consisted of Frazier, Cabrera, and Garcia, otherwise known as Chicago's 4-5-6 hitters.

Doubront retired the side yet again in the fifth and managed to punch out White Sox catcher Rob Brantly, on a dropped third-strike. At the end of the day, Oakland's long man struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced, four of them were consecutive, as A's pitchers combined for 14 K's against the south siders.

Innings 7-9:

In the top of the seventh, Fuld and Max Muncy reached base with singles off of White Sox reliever Daniel Webb, before Smolinski stepped up to the plate and blooped a single of his own to right field, increasing the green and gold's lead to double-digits on the scoreboard.

With a commanding 10-1 lead, A's closer Sean Doolittle looked to redeem himself after a spotty outing against the Colorado Rockies last Friday. This afternoon, Doolittle struck out the side with ease; catching the opposition off-guard with a devastating split-change up newly infused in his arsenal.

Like his brother, Ryan Doolittle hoped to toss a scoreless inning, especially after getting roughed-up by the San Diego Padres on Saturday. Unfortunately that was not the case; as the right-hander began the frame by surrendering back-to-back walks, and subsequently allowing Kevan Smith and Steve Lomardozzi to reach base on fielding errors; one by Doolittle and the other by Muncy, who is hoping to make the Athletics 25-man roster as a utility-man.

Luckily, Doolittle retired Brantly and Jerry Sands before R.J. Alvarez escaped the jam by retiring Jason Coats to end the threat.

Third-base prospect Matt Chapman joined the Athletics' offensive party by slugging a towering two-run homer to left field, thus securing the A's fourth win in Cactus League play.

Player of the game:

Sonny Gray: There were many players to choose from; but I decided to give Gray the nod after an impressive three innings against the south siders. The 26-year-old made quick work of the White Sox in the first, and managed to keep his composure after surrendering back-to-back hits in the second. Oakland's Ace appears to be in mid-season form -- and rightfully so, as A's skipper Bob Melvin announced he will be making his third consecutive Opening Night start on April 4, against the... you guessed it, Chicago White Sox.

Up Next for the Athletics:

Rich Hill takes the mound for the Athletics, against the Los Angeles Dodgers new Japanese acquisition, Kenta Maeda. The 35-year-old veteran looks to bounce-back at Hohokam Park, after a lackluster 1 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, in which he surrendered two hits and three walks on 44 pitches.

Tomorrow's ball game begins at 12:05 PM PT. For the pregame thread and postgame recap: baseballgirl will be taking over!