Sonny Gray is shaping up as the A’s answer to Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez’s dominance of Oakland over the years is well documented, and Gray is showing early in his major league career that he has Seattle’s number.
He delivered a sterling outing on a day the A’s needed their young right-hander to be his best. The result was a 4-1 victory at Safeco Field that helped the A’s avoid a sweep and head into the All-Star break on a high note.
Gray went 7 2/3 innings and gave up just an unearned run in the first that resulted from his own throwing error. In five career starts against the Mariners, Gray is 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA.
The A’s finished the first half 59-36, and those 59 wins are the most by a major league team before the All-Star break since the Detroit Tigers posted 59 in 2006.
Starting pitching report
Gray (10-3) has been dialed in over his last three starts, winning all three and allowing a combined two earned runs over 21 2/3 innings.
He got off to a bit of a bumpy start Sunday, which was of his own making. Gray fired an errant pickoff throw to first base nad that allowed the speedy James Jones to motor all the way to third base. That put him in position to score on Robinson Cano’s comebacker and give Seattle a 1-0 lead.
But that was it for the Mariners. Gray limited the home team to six hits over 7 2/3 innings and struck out five with two walks.
Given that the A’s have the next four days off, manager Bob Melvin went to Doolittle for a rare eight-inning entrance, and the All-Star lefty recorded the final four outs for his 14th save in 17 opportunities.
At the plate
The A’s got a lift from the bottom of the order as they scored twice to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Jed Lowrie doubled with one out. Then Andy Parrino, drawing the start in left field, drew a two-out walk with a very nice at-bat off Chris Young (8-6). Craig Gentry followed with a game-tying RBI single up the middle, and John Jaso added a run-scoring single to left to put Oakland up for good.
Parrino enjoyed a nice game, reaching base in his first three at-bats via a double, walk and single. Brandon Moss blasted his second homer in as many days (21st overall) in the sixth and Nick Punto provided some unexpected pop with his own solo shot in the ninth off lefty Charlie Furbush.
In the field
It was simply going the A’s way Sunday. Just take the bottom of the sixth.
Kyle Seager was on first base with Seattle trailing by two runs. Logan Morrison hit a sharp grounder that struck Seager as he was on his way to second, an automatic out that ended the inning.
Earlier in that inning, Moss had a nice play in the right field corner, tracking down Seager’s single, pivoting and getting a strong throw back to the infield quickly, holding Seager at first base.
The A’s will take four days off over the All-Star break before resuming play Friday with a three-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles.