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Game #101: A's 6, Rangers 3

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the day, the weather looked as though it would be perfect to play a ballgame, but as first pitch approached, clouds quickly gathered overhead. Soon after, rain started to fall, and the status of whether or not a game would be able to be played was unclear, with the field unplayable at the scheduled start time due to substantial rainfall. There was an expectation, however, that the bad weather would eventually pass and the conditions would become playable, and with those expectations came the anticipation of continued A's excellence, something that has been sorely missing all season. The long wait would ultimately be worth it, however, as the A's would wind up defeating the Rangers 6-3 after an hour long delay to begin the ballgame.

The anticipation of starting the game after the unexpected and hour long delay made the A's hitters highly aggressive starting out, as none of the first five batters saw more than three pitches in their plate appearance. While the sixth batter, Jake Smolinski, broke the trend by seeing a full five pitches in his at bat, he caused two outs with one swing by hitting into an easy double play, and Rangers' starter Nick Martinez pitched through two innings on just sixteen pitches and appeared poised to pitch long into the game. However, while Martinez was working quickly and efficiently early on in the game, he was simultaneously leaving many pitches in very hittable locations, and it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the offense would figure out its timing and start causing some real damage.

In the A's clubhouse, there is no player whose future is more unclear than Sonny Gray, who has his young ace pedigree and team friendly contract unfortunately weighted down by half a season of inconsistent locating and many undesirable peripherals. And with a newborn child at home signaling the start of a young and growing family, what happens at this trade deadline is immensely important for Gray and his family, and it would be completely understandable for someone's mind to be divided during a time of such potential volatility. While Gray's time with the A's has long been naught but sunshine and glowing moments, this season has been an unexpected disaster, a terrible storm unleashed upon Gray this season, rendering him horrendously ineffective and unable to locate his pitches in the most important of situations.

His struggles have been well-covered this season, but the one thing that has stayed true to Sonny Gray his entire career has been his ability to completely dominate when playing in Arlington. And early on in the game, Gray looked like his vintage self, if not better, as he struck out the side in the first inning and had six strikeouts through four innings, with the Rangers not coming close to even threatening to put a run on the board. In fact, through four innings, only one Ranger had even reached base, Adrian Beltre reached on a four pitch walk, and even then the Rangers couldn't advance the runner.

It wasn't until the fourth that the offense could finally break through. With Martinez showing early signs of Maddux-ing the game, Coco Crisp lead off the inning with a no-doubt two run home run to the upper deck in right field, allowing Crisp to easily trot around the bases with absolutely no risk of suddenly being thrown out en route between second and third base. Jed Lowrie quickly followed the home run with a single down the right field line, putting a runner on base for Josh Reddick. After fouling off two tough pitches, Reddick hit a long and low line drive to right field that just barely sailed over the wall for a two run shot that would put the A's up 3-0. The A's were finally capitalizing upon the more favorable offerings from Martinez that had previously gone unpunished up to this point in the game.

Marcus Semien would continue the strong performance of the offense with a leadoff home run in the fifth inning to further extend the A's lead, and Ryon Healy and Crisp reaching base afterwards would ultimately chase Martinez from the game, a fifth run ultimately getting charged to his pitching line as Josh Reddick would drive in Healy later in the inning.

Gray's no hitter would quickly come to an end in the bottom of the fifth inning when Rougned Odor hit a hard line drive to right field that bounced well in front of Josh Reddick to lead off the inning, but he was thrown out rather casually attempting to stretch his base hit into a double. The hard contact would continue, however, as Joey Gallo would follow by working a full count and then crushing an opposite field home run, putting the Rangers on the board for the first time in the game. Two batters later, following a single by Ryan Rua, Mitch Moreland would club a home run of his own to cut the A's deficit to just two runs, and put a previously cruising Gray on the ropes. Despite all of his hard work and success up to this point in this game, the baseball gods seemed determined to rain on Gray's parade.

Gray would work himself out of the inning eventually, though the A's substantial lead was now a small lead, and his efficient pitch count was now a deep pitch count. But Gray would battle back, coming back out for the sixth inning and returning to his dominant ways, netting himself two more strikeouts while working a 1-2-3 inning. Overall, Gray would throw 100 pitches exactly, working six innings, totalling eight strikeouts while walking just two, and allowing only five hits and three runs, all in the span of three batters in the fifth inning. Despite all of Gray's struggles this season, pitching in Globe Life Park has always been a respite, and apart from a highly damaging three batter stretch in the fifth inning, Gray stayed true to form in Arlington, and showed signs of a pitcher that was turning his fortunes around.

The bullpen, in the form of Hendricks, Rzepczynski, and Axford, was determined to keep this game boring, and they collectively succeeded as the three relievers combined for three innings, five strikeouts, and only one walk and hit, quietly putting the Rangers away in the final innings of the game, and ultimately put any storms that threatened Gray's success to rest.

Sonny Gray's season has been a bit of an unexpected tempest, the A's longtime reliable ace struggling to find any semblance of consistency all season. Tonight, however, Sonny's shine showed through as he once again resembled the long time he has always been capable of being. A's win 6-3.