Programming note: Red Sox-A’s coverage starts Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
OAKLAND – Sonny Gray has made some adjustments with A’s pitching coach Curt Young between starts.
Want Gray to share specifics on that?
You’d have better luck hitting one of those 95 mile-per-hour fastballs he was dealing in the A’s 4-2 victory Wednesday over the Texas Rangers.
Gray stays pretty tight-lipped about whatever he and Young have tinkered with. Bottom line, the young right-hander turned in his best start in nearly a month, helping the A’s capture this three-game series and improve their record to 44-28, the best mark in the majors.
Gray completed as many as seven innings for the first time since his eight-inning outing May 22 at Tampa Bay, and it was important on a day A’s manager Bob Melvin was working with a short bullpen. Fernando Abad and Dan Otero both needed a day off.
“We needed him to go seven today,” Melvin said. “Starting pitchers know that. They don’t want to put too much pressure on themselves, but in the back of their mind they want to be able to give the bullpen a little bit of a rest.”
Gray’s recent work leading into Wednesday left something to be desired. Over his previous four outings, he’d surrendered 15 earned runs and nine walks in 24 innings. A key Wednesday was getting off to a better start. Gray has driven his pitch counts up early even if it hasn’t always translated into runs allowed.
But he worked efficiently early on Wednesday, surrendering just one base runner over the first three innings. And the difference was apparent before the first inning even began.
Catcher John Jaso was surprised when Gray wanted to start his pregame throwing about 10 minutes earlier than usual.
“We started warming up 30 minutes before game time,” Jaso said. “I don’t know if maybe he was giving himself time to calm down before going into the game, but that is definitely important to him. Usually he throws a lot of pitches in the first inning. But today he was pretty efficient.”
Melvin actually shed a bit of light on Gray’s adjustments. Just a bit.
“It’s just balance for him,” Melvin said. “He knows his delivery and mechanics pretty well. And Curt’s terrific at pointing out subtle things. There’s a couple subtle things they’ve been working on.”
It’s becoming an intriguing challenge for reporters to pry details out of Gray after games. He declined to get specific about his between-starts work. Asked if he had to re-focus after issuing two walks in the fifth, when the Rangers scored twice to make it a 2-2 game, Gray shared his thought process.
“Try not to walk anyone else,” he said dryly, drawing laughs that he knew were coming.
But on the subject of his recent starts, Gray answered with depth and perspective. He is 7-3 with a 2.91 ERA, and those are spiffy numbers for a starter in his first full big league season.
“When I first came up, talking to some of the older guys, I think people sometimes forget that baseball is a pretty hard game,” he said. “There’s going to be some rough patches you go through. If you have a really good game, don’t sit on it and pat yourself on the back. And if you have a bad one, don’t dwell on that. Just continue to move on.”
When Gray does choose to open up, his words pack punch. On Wednesday, so did his pitches.