Melvin on Gray: We have another quality starter
Nate Freiman set new career-highs in hits and RBI in the A's win over the Astros Thursday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- OK, lets go ahead and call it "The Sonny and Nate Show," or somesuch.
Because yes, the headlines will be all about rookie phenom Sonny Gray, who made his Oakland debut and dazzled with eight scoreless innings in the A's 5-0 series-salvaging victory over Houston.
But Nate Freiman also contributed mightily, driving in four of the A's runs in the matinee.
Oakland jumped the Astros with a three-run first inning and added two more in the third while Houston, which had won three of the past four meetings between the clubs after the A's won the first 10, could not advance a runner past second base against Gray, and only had two get that far.
Oakland (68-52) pulled within 1 1/2 games of Texas, which was idle, in the American League West and the A's maintained its grip on one of the two A.L. wild card spots, alongside Tampa Bay.
Starting pitching report
Sonny Gray was as advertised, dealing eight shutout innings by keeping the Astros off balance with a 93-mph heater and a knee-buckling curveball that harkened Bert Blyleven. Kinda. Gray allowed just four hits and struck out nine while walking one in his 118 pitches, 75 for strikes, en route to his first career win. Gray has an ERA of 1.00 after four appearances, two starts.
Dan Otero flirted with blowing the shutout, walking a batter and giving up a two-out double, but emerged unscathed by striking out Matt Dominguez looking to end the game.
At the plate
Nate Freiman doubled in his first at-bat, driving in two runs. He then hit a two-run home run in the third inning before adding singles in the fifth and seventh innings. Yes, the lumbering 6-feet-8 first baseman came within a triple of hitting for the cycle. And yes, he hit one earlier this year. Frieman, who spent spring training with the Astros, made his former team pay by setting career-highs in hits and RBI. All three of his big league homers have come against Houston and he is now batting .358 (29-for-81) at the O.co Coliseum.
In the field
It had to set some sort of record, right? A's center fielder Chris Young caught all three fly balls for outs in the fourth inning, calling off right fielder Josh Reddick for the inning's final out on a lazy fly off the bat of Chris Carter. And it was the only inning in which Gray did not strike out a batter.
The A's announced a crowd of 16,487 at the O.co Coliseum for the series finale.
Tweet o' da game
u gotta love a pitcher who is two types of weather forecasts. -- @jdubbs88, on the aptly named Sonny "Oxymoron" Gray.
A.J. Griffin (10-8, 3.88 ERA) has allowed a major league-leading 28 home runs, including 10 since the All-Star break. The right hander opens the series against Cleveland and lost his only career start against the Indians, on May 8, giving up four runs, three earned, in 6 2/3 innings, on six hits, four strikeouts and two walks. Right hander Justin Masterson (13-8, 3.59) is scheduled to start for Cleveland.