Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Game time arrived at the Coliseum on Friday night, and Sonny Gray took the mound in an A’s uniform.

Then he showed exactly why he’s such a hyped-up trade target.

The right-hander continued a midseason hot streak on the mound, firing six scoreless innings as the A’s hung a 5-0 defeat on the Cleveland Indians to open up the season’s second half.

In the minds of many, the hourglass is running out fast on Gray’s time in green and gold. He’s been linked to several different pitching-hungry contenders, and the speculation only heated up after lefty Jose Quintana was dealt from the White Sox to the Cubs, leaving Gray as the best starting pitcher available who is team-controlled for the next two seasons.

A bogus report even surfaced Friday, about an hour before first pitch, that Gray had been scratched, fueling speculation that perhaps he had been dealt. It was quickly shot down by the A’s.

But his performance Friday only increases his attractiveness to buyers. Gray struck out five, walked one and allowed just two hits, lowering his ERA to 3.72. Over his past four starts, Gray is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

RETURN OF RAJAI: Rajai Davis, nearly a World Series hero for the Indians last fall after his Game 7 homer off Aroldis Chapman, went deep against his former club Friday. That was one of two homers the A’s hit in the fifth to open up a 4-0 lead. Yonder Alonso, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, hit his 21st of the season three batters later.

AGGRESSIVNESS ON THE BASES: Manager Bob Melvin talked before the All-Star break of the need for Oakland to show better base running. He got it Friday. In the third, Matt Joyce doubled and Davis scored all the way from first. Joyce took the opportunity to break for third on the throw, and that aggressiveness put him in position to score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly. In the sevneth, Matt Chapman stole another run for the A’s by scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far away from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT: By jumping out to an early lead, and with Gray’s strong six-inning outing, it set up the A’s late-inning bullpen combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla. They blanked the Indians over the final three innings, and the A’s opened the second half with a shutout.

NO FACTOR: Melvin talked before the game about Cleveland’s dominant bullpen. But by getting to starter Carlos Carrasco for five runs over 6 1/3 innings, the A’s didn’t let the Tribe’s bullpen play a role in this one.

HELP ON THE WAY?: There was encouraging news on the injury front for the A’s as the second half gets underway. Utility man Chad Pinder is scheduled to run the bases Saturday at the Coliseum to test his strained left hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll likely begin a minor league rehab assignment right after that.

The A’s have been without reliever Ryan Dull for nearly two months due to a strained right knee, but he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, and he too seems close to a rehab assignment. Dull’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

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USATSI

Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

The A's hit a lot of home runs and they appear to be bringing back a player that hits a lot of home runs.

Chris Carter, who played for the A's from 2010 through 2012, is reportedly signing a minor league contract to return to the organization.

News of the deal was first reported by FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman.

Carter was released by the Yankees on July 10. In 62 games for New York, Carter hit .201/.284/.370 with five doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI.

Over the previous four seasons between Houston and Milwaukee, Carter hit 131 home runs and drove in 328 runs.

Carter's high-water mark with the A's came in 2012 when he hit 16 home runs in 67 games.

Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

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Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Sonny Gray struck out six pitching into the seventh in what might have been his final home start in Oakland if the club tries to deal him before the trade deadline, and the Athletics rallied in the fifth inning to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 on Wednesday.

Matt Joyce hit a towering homer to the right-field seats in the eighth for Oakland.

Rajai Davis doubled home Oakland's first run in the fifth then Joyce followed with a tying sacrifice fly before Davis scurried home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Gray (6-4) won his third straight start and fourth in five. When speculation arose from the White Sox side before his Friday outing that the right-hander had been scratched because of a possible deal, the A's quickly announced that he was indeed taking the mound for his scheduled outing.

After a pair of one-run defeats to begin this series, the A's avoided being swept by the Rays in Oakland for the first time. This already marked just their third lost series at home to Tampa Bay.

Gray allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with two walks.

The Rays got three straight singles off Gray to start the fourth inning, including an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. Brad Miller also drove in a run on a groundout.

But Oakland finally got to Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Faria (4-1) in the fifth. With seven straight quality starts to begin his career, Faria took his first big league loss.

A's All-Star Yonder Alonso hit an RBI single in the inning, when Faria had two of his four walks. He allowed six hits and four runs in five innings, striking out four.

Alonso was thrown out at home in the first when he tried to go from first on Khris Davis' double to right. The throw beat him so handily Alonso didn't even try to slide and instead ran behind the plate before turning for the dugout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rays: RF Steven Souza Jr. exited the game in the first after straining his left hip trying to steal second after drawing a leadoff walk to start the game. Shane Peterson replaced him. X-rays were negative and he will be re-evaluated once the team arrives home. ... Manager Kevin Cash said LHP Blake Snell would make his next turn in the rotation despite still being winless at 0-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 starts. "He's going to pitch well," Cash said.

Athletics: The A's hope to have Chad Pinder back from the DL and a strained left hamstring when they return home from an upcoming seven-game trip to the New York Mets and Toronto. Manager Bob Melvin plans to use him as a utilityman. ... RHP Kendall Graveman allowed five hits and four runs with one strikeout and a walk on 46 pitches in 2 1/3 innings with Triple-A Nashville rehabbing his strained pitching shoulder. RHP Jharel Cotton (blister on his right thumb) also pitched in the game, striking out six in 3 1/3 innings, while Pinder was 0 for 2 with a walk and strikeout for the Sounds.

UP NEXT

Rays: With the Rays back home, RHP Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.59 ERA) takes the ball in Friday's series opener against Yu Darvish and Texas having not faced the Rangers since April 6, 2014.

Athletics: After Thursday's day off following a cross-country flight, RHP Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.83 ERA) pitches the series opener at the Mets in his fourth career start.