Making his first ever appearance at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Sonny Gray looked confident and locked in on the mound as the Oakland A’s grabbed a much needed win over the Houston Astros.
The rookie right-hander picked up his first major league win as he tossed 118 pitches over eight innings of shutout work. Gray missed quite a few Astro bats as he racked up nine strikeouts and allowed just four hits while issuing one walk.
The 2011 first-round draft pick didn’t allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until there were two outs in the third, and the Astros didn’t get a runner into scoring position until there were two outs in the eighth.
“Pretty impressive performance. He’s got plus everything, a very confident kid.” said manager Bob Melvin.
The struggles continued, though, for Astros starter Eric Bedard as the the club has now dropped eight straight games in which the veteran has taken the mound. The left-hander threw 97 pitches but lasted just 4.2 innings as he served up five runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out four.
First baseman Nate Freiman enjoyed a big day as the tall rookie went 4-for-4 as he finished a triple shy of the cycle. Freiman drove in four runs on the day and becomes the first A’s rookie since Ben Grieve in 1998 to have four hits and four RBI in a single game.
“We got eight hits, so I told [Fry] he was showing off,” said Melvin. “It was a pretty special day for both those guys.” Said the manager of the two rookies.
After salvaging the final game of the series, the A’s (68-52, .567) now sit 1.5 games behind the Texas Rangers (70-51, .579). The AL West leading Rangers are off until tomorrow night when they take on the Seattle Mariners in Arlington.
Gray got off to impressive start against the Astros as he picked up a pair of strikeouts in the opening frame as he ripped off a one, two, three inning.
The A’s immediately got to Bedard in the bottom half of the first. After Chris Young legged out an infield single to leadoff the game, Jed Lowrie clubbed a double to right-center field to give the A’s an early 1-0 advantage. Lowrie, the DH on the day, now has a team-leading 31 doubles on the season. The team then claimed a 3-0 lead as Freiman laced a double that was just inside the first base line.
The Astros tallied their first hit in the third inning as Robbie Grossman lined a single just under the glove of a diving Alberto Callaspo. Gray ended the third by striking out former A’s farmhand Brett Wallace on a nasty breaking ball. The punch out gave Gray five after three innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Freiman crushed his third home run of the season as he deposited an offering from Bedard over the fence in left field and beyond the reach of the leaping Grossman. Freiman has now hit two of his three home runs against Bedard, and all three long balls have come against the Astros. Freiman played for Houston during spring training.
Gray finished his afternoon with nine strikeouts over eight shutout innings of work, as the 23-year-old absolutely dominated the Astros lineup. Melvin was impressed by the young starter, but noted:
“He didn’t really get locked in until probably the third, but after that it was just off to the races. A great disposition on the mound,” said the skipper. “Stuff wise he’s probably as good as anyone we have.”
Catcher Derek Norris, who was back in the lineup for the first time since Saturday in Toronto, had to be pulled in the eighth after Melvin said his back “stiffened up.” Norris said after the game that his back had “tightened up a bit,” when he stretched to catch a pitch. “I’m fine. Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will be gone.”
Dan Otero came on to pitch the ninth and preserve the shutout for the A’s. The right-handed reliever, who worked a scoreless ninth, has now allowed one run in his last 19 innings.
Tomorrow the Cleveland Indians come to town as they make their first trip to the Coliseum in 2013. Right-hander A.J. Griffin (10-8, 3.88 ERA) takes the hill for the A’s. In his most recent outing on Saturday in Toronto, Griffin picked up the no-decision as he went 5.2 innings and allowed three run (two earned) on five hits. Griffin issued a career-high six walks as the A’s ultimately rallied to a late 6-4 win over the Blue Jays.
Cleveland sends out All-Star Justin Masterson (13-8, 3.59 ERA). The right-hander is coming off his shortest outing of the year as he lasted just 4.1 innings while getting knocked around by the Los Angeles Angels.
Griffin and Masterson also faced off back in Cleveland on May 8. The Tribe picked up the win 4-3 thanks to a controversial non-home run call by Angel Hernadez off the bat of Adam Rosales.
In the clubhouse after the game, Coco Crisp, who hasn’t started a game since Sunday, was wearing a large wrap on his left wrist. Crisp received a cortisone shot in his injured wrist on Tuesday, and Melvin hopes to have the leadoff man back in the lineup on Friday.