During trade season, when rebuilding teams and fanbases are (rightly perhaps) focused on the trade market, rumors are flying, and the landscape of the league is rapidly changing, watching baseball can feel like an escape from baseball. That being said, all of the A’s most-likely-to-be-dealt assets played well on Wednesday afternoon.
Final line on Sonny Gray: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 104 pitches, 66 strikes. He can win. He cannot lose.— Gameday Feed (@OAKGameday) July 19, 2017
If this was indeed Sonny’s last start in Oakland, he certainly acquitted himself very well. He battled admirably against a tough Rays lineup (and Marcus Semien, but that’s another story) and did more than enough to give his team a chance to win. Today marks Gray’s fifth excellent outing in a row, the last two of which have come against the very formidable Indians and Rays.
That makes it 5-straight quality starts for Gray, who has lowered his ERA from 4.84 to 3.66 in that span. He’s been really good recently.— Alex Simon (@alexsimon99) July 19, 2017
Wednesday’s action began quickly. Gray was helped by a strike ‘em out-throw ‘em out double play just two batters into the game. With two strikes, Steven Souza took off from first, and Corey Dickerson swung through Gray’s pitch. Maxwell threw a dart to second to nab Souza. Souza slid awkwardly into the base and was removed with what’s being called a hip strain.
In the bottom half of the first, it looked like the A’s might grab an early lead until Yonder Alonso was thrown out at home for the final out. Khris Davis hit a double into the gap, and to be fair I thought it was a good decision to send Yonder at the time, but the Rays executed the relay brilliantly, and Yonder was out by so much at the plate that he didn’t even slide.
The next two innings went by without incident and the Rays got both their runs in the fourth. Evan Longoria, Logan Morrison, and Wilson Ramos all singled. Longoria and Morrison came around to score and it looked like the Rays might have a big inning. But the inning was over just as soon as it began; Tim Beckham grounded into a double play.
The A’s put up four runs in the fifth. Maxwell and Jaycob Brugman both walked, and both came around to score thanks to a Rajai Davis ground rule double and a Matt Joyce sacrifice fly. Rajai would score next on a Jacob Faria wild pitch. Marcus Semien then singled and moved to second after Faria threw another wild pitch. Yonder finally concluded the inning’s scoring by singling in Semien.
The A’s played small ball in the sixth en route to another run. Lowrie doubled, moved up to third on a Matt Chapman single, and scored on a perfectly placed Brugman bunt single. Oakland would add another run in the seventh inning, and their seventh and final run on a Matt Joyce homerun in the eighth inning.
Everyone contributed in what amounted to a very enjoyable win. Every starter got a hit except Maxwell. But Maxwell’s contribution was invaluable - he walked twice, threw out an attempted base stealer, blocked several balls with runners in scoring position, and called an all-together great game. Gray was excellent. Yonder reached four times. Lowrie and Rajai both had two hits. Coulombe and Hendricks were solid out of the 'pen. Even Casilla pitched well!
The game wasn't perfect. Semien committed two errors - one fielding and one throwing - and looked downright shaky on every ball hit near him. But it was as complete a win as you'll see from the A's this campaign. It's trade season; true victories this month will look like quality prospects returning in exchange for veteran players who are more useful to other teams than they are to us. But even in the midst of a true rebuild, there's something very satisfying about playing well and beating a good team. The A’s are off tomorrow and open a weekend interleague series against the Mets on Friday. Enjoy your off-day!