On a beautiful day in Oakland, a first inning, two run blast courtesy of Khris Davis proved to be all the offense the A's would need on the back of a masterful performance from Sonny Gray. With each start this season, Gray has been steadily improving, but in today's game he took a massive step forward to a level no one had seen from him before, and bodes well for some bright and, uh, sunny days in his future.
Some two-thousand-plus years ago, on a day presumably much like this one, the Greek philosopher Socrates was mulling over one of the most pressing issues he believed was facing society and its future: Who should lead? In just about every society he could think of (i.e. the Greek city-states), even a ruler with the best of intentions would have their views warped and corrupted due to their stature or the demands and needs of the masses. Even those who Socrates deemed most able to run society, philosophers like himself, would not be able to resist that corruption. People who possessed the intelligence to run society often lacked the morality or courage necessary to lead, and those who did possess morality and courage often lacked the intelligence or patience to lead.
A man named Glaucon, Plato's elder brother, was with Socrates on this day, and, desperate for a definitive answer to the question of who should lead, asked of Socrates which single quality an effective ruler ultimately needs. Socrates mulled the question over carefully, going over the obvious personality traits: Knowledgeable about the world they are in, calm demeanor under pressure, always looking to self-improve, and possession of a nasty slider and a fastball with surprising giddy-up. After a long while he posited the answer - "Goodness."
But what is "Goodness?" At first, Socrates did not want to define it, "Goodness" is broad and subjective. But then he had a thought, "As goodness stands in the intelligible realm to intelligence and the things we know, so in the visible realm the Son(ny) stands to sight and the things we see."
Glaucon had a hard time understanding, and asked Socrates to further explain "Goodness." Socrates, tired from his day of deep thinking, responded with two words. "Sonny Gray."
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this may have been Sonny Gray's best pitched game of his entire career. Gray was in complete control for all seven innings he pitched, his slider particularly cumbersome to the Marlins' strong lineup. Gray's final line on the day was seven innings pitched, three hits and one walk surrendered, just one run allowed, and eleven strikeouts (nine swinging and two looking). But more impressive than the line itself, perhaps, is how Gray got to that final line. He retired all six batters he faced in the first two innings, half via strikeout and the other half via weakly ground balls hit right at infielders, and then got even better. He struck out the side, all swinging, primarily at sliders down and out of the zone, in the third inning, and got three more strikeouts in the fourth inning, just for good measure.
It was in the fourth inning that the lone run on Gray's linescore came across the plate, but even then that run couldn't entirely be contributed to Sonny. Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton led off the inning with back to back singles that placed the two of them on the corners, as they are wont to do at the top of Miami's order, but would have been left stranded if not for Josh Phegley failing to be a backstop and letting one of Sonny's sliders through, on a swinging third strike to Marcell Ozuna in the dirt, to the backstop that permitted Gordon to score.
With his pitch count rising and knowing that the A's only have eight relievers on the major league roster, Gray was determined to pitch deep into the game. Over the fifth and sixth innings combined, Gray threw only fourteen pitches and still added two more strikeouts to his name. A double and a walk threatened to undo Gray's entire good day in the seventh, but Gray calmly and collectively worked out of the jam without allowing any further damage. He was relieved by Madson in the eighth, who would later be relieved by Casilla in the ninth, after just under ninety pitches thrown. The two relievers mostly kept the Marlins' at bay, despite the best effort from the A's defense to let them back in the game.
In support of Sonny, Khris Davis got the A's on the board early with a two run home run to right field, his fourteenth on the year, after Jed Lowrie doubled with two outs to extend the first inning. Jed Lowrie was the other major force on offense, as he was unstoppable at the plate today. Lowrie got the same number of hits as the entire Marlin's team did, four, and he drove in the other two runs the A's scored on the day on two out hits in the fifth inning and in the seventh inning. The rest of the A's offense sputtered most of the day against the now 0-7 Edinson Volquez, and the A's who did reach base kept finding creative ways to make outs on the basepaths to erase any other threats the team could have mounted. With someone other than Gray on the mound today for the A's, this could have been a real problem, but thankfully it was not.
Through thick and thin, Sonny Gray has been a leader for the A's since he dramatically took the stage in 2013. The last couple of years haven't been all too kind to him, though, and the team faltered as a result. Gray never stopped battling his way back from injury or ineffectiveness, however, and today his determination and hard work really paid off. Gray was not only good today, he was the embodiment of Goodness, and the A's couldn't ask for a better leader for their pitching staff and team as a whole.
Video Highlights from the game are below.
Sonny had the Marlins swinging and missing all game long
Khrush getting the A's on the board early with a 2-run dinger
Khris Davis hits a two-run home run to right-center field to open the scoring for the Athletics in the bottom of the 1st inning!! pic.twitter.com/T9Qi7cALqv— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 24, 2017
Lowrie's 4th hit on the day