If anyone can right the ship for an Oakland Athletics ball club sitting four games below .500, than having Sonny Gray on the mound in tonight's series opener against the Boston Red Sox is a good place to start. Even though Gray hasn't pitched like A's fans are accustomed to -- doesn't mean he can't turn things around for the better.
In his career, the 26-year-old is 36-23 with a 3.01 ERA and 451 punch outs in 526 1/3 frames for the green and gold. On top of that, the right-hander has pitched into the six inning or further in 17 of his 18 major league starts to begin a new season (April/May). In his last outing against the Seattle Mariners, the Nashville, Tennessee native told A's beat writer Jane Lee that despite the end result, he physically felt fine on the hill and ultimately acknowledged the progress he's made (along with battery mate Josh Phegley and skipper Bob Melvin) since his brief two-inning stint in Detroit -- just a couple of weeks ago.
"I thought I threw the ball well," he (Gray) said. "It was just really unfortunate the way it turned out."
"He wasn't trying to be too fine like he's normally throwing on the edges, he was just trying to throw strikes, and he was throwing all of his pitches for strikes," catcher Josh Phegley said. "Everything had the normal action it was supposed to have on it, and just the consistency of throwing what he wanted to throw and when he wanted to throw it. He needs to just trust it and go with it and just get back to the normal Sonny."
"I thought his stuff was really good at times," Melvin said. "Really the one bad pitch was probably the one to Martin, and then Cano hits a pretty good pitch out to left. But up until that point, I thought he was back on track with his stuff, the movement, down in the zone, and then it just got a little bit out of hand at the end."
Based on the quote from Phegley, I find it hard to believe that Gray had "issues trusting his stuff". Obviously, that statement proved to be true in Motown, but I saw an increasingly confident Sonny Gray who managed to turn things around against Oakland's Pacific Northwest counterparts. Like Phegley mentioned, he was consistently hitting the strike zone and effectively locating each of his pitches.
From a fan perspective Gray looked like his old self, despite the fact that he surrendered three runs through the first six innings. The right-hander ultimately kept his offense in striking distance to get back in the ball game, and that should be good enough tonight against Clay Buchholz who is 3-2 with an 6.81 ERA in eight career starts against the A's.
Without further ado, here are tonight's starting lineups:
|OAKLAND A'S||BOSTON RED SOX|
|Coco Crisp - CF||Mookie Betts - RF|
|Jed Lowrie - 2B||Dustin Pedroia - 2B|
|Josh Reddick - RF||Xander Bogaerts - SS|
|Khris Davis - LF||David Ortiz - DH|
|Stephen Vogt - DH||Hanley Ramirez - 1B|
|Danny Valencia - 3B||Travis Shaw - 3B|
|Yonder Alonso - 1B||Brock Holt - LF|
|Josh Phegley - C||Jackie Bradley - CF|
|Marcus Semien - SS||Christian Vazquez - C|
|Sonny Gray - RHP||Clay Buchholz - RHP|
Buchholz is hoping to change that trend, coming off a stellar outing in Chicago where he tossed seven innings of two-run baseball opposing the first-place White Sox on the South Side. Aside from this performance, the 31-year-old veteran has allowed five runs in four of his six starts this season. Sluggers are batting .314 when they put the ball in play, which could be the reason why Phegley (who is 2-for-2 with two doubles) is behind the dish for the A's, along with Mark Canha -- who is 3-for-3 with two doubles, despite the fact that he's received limited playing time thus far, 32 games into the season.
For Canha, a positive performance could jump start a series of starting gigs -- even though he's looked over-matched at the plate on several occasions. Whether it's a right-handed hurler, or a southpaw; the San Jose native has the raw-power to be an everyday player in Oakland's starting lineup. Many of us were hesitant about Khris Davis' status two weeks into the season; and the same was said in regards to Yonder Alonso, but even he is turning things around at the dish. If you don't believe me, check out his .286/.423/.381 slash line in May.
And how about that Josh Reddick fellow?
He's been ON FIRE in his last few games and I'm sure he's salivating over breaking Oakland's franchise record for hits in consecutive at-bats (8). The last player to do so was infielder Dave Magadan in 1997.
LETS PLAY BALL!