Gray finds groove, pitches A's to his first victory of the 2017 season

Gray finds groove, pitches A's to his first victory of the 2017 season

OAKLAND — All seems right in the A’s world when Sonny Gray is dealing as he did Thursday night.

After a rough first, the right-hander found a groove and held the Boston Red Sox to just one hit over his final five innings as the A’s rang up an 8-3 victory to start a six-game homestand on a high note.

Plagued by injuries and inconsistency since the start of last season, Gray found the win column for the first time since July 26, 2016. More importantly from the team perspective, the 2015 All-Star showed continued signs of rounding into form in his fourth start since coming off the disabled list.

“Sonny was absolutely outstanding,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “The first inning, they jumped on him a little bit. But he looked as good as I’ve seen him in a very long time. He felt good. He had all four pitches working, and he really put the ball where he wanted to.”

Gray struck out eight in the 100th start of his career. That’s the most he’s punched out since that start last summer at Texas when he’d pocketed his last win. The tone of his postgame media session Thursday was proof that he’s feeling better on the mound these days.

He’s spent so many past postgame interviews searching for ways to explain what went wrong during a particular outing. On Thursday night, Gray got the chance to expand on all that went right. Most importantly, after getting ahead in the count, he found a way to put guys away with a slider that had Sox hitters chasing all night.

“After my last start, I really struggled putting guys away, and that’s something that’s kind of been a focus for a while now,” Gray said. “I feel like my stuff is getting better, and now just putting together a whole start is something I’m going to have to do. But I feel like my stuff is the best it’s been in I can’t remember when.”

That last statement is huge from the standpoint that Gray is pitching back-to-back in the rotation with Kendall Graveman. When both are dealing, the A’s have to like their chances of having a chance to win on two consecutive days.

And Thursday’s victory was big because it helped the A’s wash out the taste of a 1-5 road trip. The Red Sox, who arrived at their hotel at 4 a.m. Thursday morning after playing 13 innings in St. Louis, had won nine of their previous 10 against the A’s.

They scored twice off Gray in the first. But Oakland answered right back with three in the bottom half when Jed Lowrie drilled a two-run homer to center and Khris Davis followed with his 12th homer, a drive to right-center off Hector Velazquez, who was touched for six runs in his major league debut.

The A’s got a two-run homer from Chad Pinder in their three-run fourth when they broke a 3-3 tie and took the lead for good.

Gray said he threw his changeup a bit more than usual. Combining his fastball, slider and curve, it gave him a complete mix to throw at Boston. In light of Gray going 5-11 last season with a 5.69 ERA, manager Bob Melvin was asked after the game if he felt confident to declare Gray was on his way back to the form that made him a Cy Young finalist in 2015.

“I never think that he's not,” Melvin said in backing his pitcher. “Even when he had a tough year last year — everybody's going to have a tough year. There were injuries involved in it. But the stuff is always there, and he's quite the competitor. One year is not going to get me off who I think he is.”


A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Wilmer Flores hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the New York Mets rallied from an early five-run deficit to beat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda delivered a tying single with two outs in the eighth off left-hander Daniel CoulombeJay Bruce hit a two-run homer in the sixth to begin New York's comeback, and Jose Reyes tripled twice.

Flores connected on a 96 mph fastball from Simon Castro (0-1), sending a line drive to left field for the second game-ending homer of his career. That sent a frenzied crowd of 39,629 home happy - hours after fans lined up early in the heat outside Citi Field to get their Noah Syndergaard as Thor bobbleheads.

Matt Joyce hit a leadoff home run and Matt Chapman added a prodigious shot for Oakland, which scored four in the first off struggling Mets starter Zack Wheeler.

Sean Manaea took a shutout into the sixth but then wilted after throwing a career-high 115 pitches Sunday in his previous start, a win against Cleveland.

Hansel Robles (6-1) tossed a hitless inning to win for the second straight day.

MAN ON THE MOVE:
With Mets second baseman Neil Walker nearing a return from the disabled list, perhaps Monday in San Diego, Asdrubal Cabrera made his first major league start at third and played flawless defense after working out at the position once. Cabrera's only previous appearance at the hot corner came during his rookie season in 2007 with Cleveland. "He's a middle infielder who's going to play third base. Got great hands, great arm. He'll be fine," manager Terry Collins said. Cabrera initially balked at shifting from shortstop to second when he came off the DL about a month ago.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: Ryon Healy had a pinch-hit single after getting hit near the left temple by a bad-hop grounder Friday night. Healy went through the concussion protocol and was cleared, manager Bob Melvin said. ... Melvin said he would have news after the game regarding RHP Jharel Cotton, on the DL since July 4 with a blister on his right thumb. Cotton threw a bullpen Friday. Oakland needs a starter for Monday night at Toronto. ... INF-OF Chad Pinder (strained left hamstring) homered Friday on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville and could come off the DL when Oakland begins a homestand next weekend. "That's kind of the target area," Melvin said.

Mets: Walker (left hamstring) went 1 for 3 with Triple-A Las Vegas at Memphis in the first game of rehab assignment. The switch-hitter has been on the DL since June 15. ... LHP Josh Smoker threw a scoreless sixth in his first outing since coming off the disabled list Thursday. Smoker had been sidelined since June 14 with a strained left shoulder.

UP NEXT:
Oakland rookie right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-5, 5.79 ERA) makes his eighth career start in Sunday's series finale against RHP Rafael Montero (1-6, 5.40). Gossett has given up 10 homers in 37 1/3 innings after yielding only four in 60 2/3 innings at Triple-A.

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Michael Conforto hit a pair of two-run homers and Jerry Blevins rescued the Mets' bullpen with a five-out save as New York held off the Oakland Athletics 7-5 on Friday night for its third straight victory.

T.J. Rivera put the Mets ahead in the sixth inning with a two-run single that turned into a Little League home run. Rivera came all the way around to score on the play after third baseman Matt Chapman, trying to get Rivera at second, threw the ball away into right field for a costly error that made it 5-3.

Moments earlier, New York loaded the bases when Lucas Duda's bad-hop infield single struck first baseman Ryon Healy near the temple. Healy left the game and walked off under his own power with a swollen bruise next to his left eye.

Conforto's second homer made it 7-3 in the seventh. Oakland rallied for two in the eighth, but Blevins replaced closer Addison Reed with the bases loaded and got five straight outs against his former team for his fifth major league save and first this season.

Normally a lefty specialist, Blevins recorded five outs in a game for the first time since 2014 with Washington. He retired All-Star slugger Yonder Alonso on a foul popup and struck out Khris Davis to escape the eighth-inning jam.

"We just tried to find some matchups that worked," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Yoenis Cespedes had three hits after raising eyebrows when he told the San Francisco Chronicle before the game that he wants to play the final season of his career in Oakland, his first big league team.

Cespedes, who signed a $110 million, four-year contract in the offseason to remain with the Mets, also said A's manager Bob Melvin is his favorite skipper and he doesn't think there's a better one.

"Bob's a great manager. I don't blame him," Collins said after the game. "This is the first I've heard of it."

After the game, Cespedes clarified his comments while speaking with reporters through a translator and said he meant no disrespect toward Collins or the Mets.