First of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Dallas Braden did as the on-field analyst in tonight's game. He brought something to the game tonight and must say that I enjoyed his part in tonight's presentation of baseball after the break.
That being said, if this was Sonny Gray's swan song for the Oakland Athletics, it was a banner night to be sure. Gray threw exactly 100 pitches, most of them perfect; allowing just two hits and a single walk in his five-strikeout performance. The A's bullpen backed him up just as perfectly, Madson, Doolittle and Casilla were all nearly-perfect in their one inning each; Madson struck out the side, Doolittle struck out two of his batters; and Casilla K'd two of his own, as well.
I will miss Sonny Gray. Not so much for what he can do for this team; let’s be honest, the A’s are 40-50 on the year and although they are showing signs of life from the cellar, they are still buried in the cellar, but for the past. Remember that gutsy playoff start? Remember how fun it was to have a young ace on a playoff team? Remember winning records? It’s time, and the A’s are getting better, but it’s still hard to lose the past. Best of luck, Sonny Gray. You deserve all the good things.
Meanwhile, the A's offense provided the perfect amount of support behind Gray. A Matt Joyce double and and Semien sac fly brought home the first two runs in the third, and solo home runs by Rajai Davis and Yonder "All Star" Alonso doubled the lead to 4-0. To cap off the night, Matt Chapman scored on a heads-up hustle home to plate the A's fifth run, sealing a very good win. Things have started out swimmingly for the A's to open the second half of the season; they notched a win against a very good team; their 40th win of the year and third shutout.
It’s nights like these that make you fall in love with baseball all over again, even if you are watching a sub-.500 team. The July nights are gorgeous in Oakland, the ace is on the mound, baseball is back after a five-day hiatus, and all is right in the world. Your single All-Star proves his bid wasn’t a fluke with a home run; the least-likely home run hitter on your team also knocks one out, and the kids play (minus Brugman with the stomach flu), and the A’s score five runs on just six hits. It’s almost...magical.
Gray took the mound to start the game and struck out the first two of the four batters he faced; his only walk came in the inning, as well. The A’s racked up seven strikeouts in their first three innings, per usual, but they were first to draw blood. Rajai Davis, who incidentally had a terrific night against his former team, started the third with a single and immediately scored on Joyce’s double, the latter moving to third on the throw home. Marcus Semien launched a pretty deep sac fly to add the second run, and it was all gravy from there. Davis homered to open the fifth, and two batters later, Alonso matched him with his 21st of the season. Fast forward to the seventh inning and a lead-off triple by Chapman was nearly stranded at third, save for a wild pitch. Chapman alertly ran home and scored the A’s fifth run, with two outs, and just six hits total.
That was a win. Dramatic? No. Solid? Yes. Let’s try it again tomorrow. Game time 6:05, Paul Blackburn will face off against the very good Corey Kluber. Challenge accepted; we’ll see you back here.