Athletics

Rewind: Gray, A's finish on right side of one-run game

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Rewind: Gray, A's finish on right side of one-run game

OAKLAND -– Sonny Gray didn’t feel his best, but he was pitching Wednesday in the type of game that brings out his best.

The A’s needed a victory in a bad way, and the fact it was just game No. 3 on the schedule didn’t diminish that. Their ace was there to answer the call.

Hardly full strength after battling the stomach flu, Gray dug deep and led Oakland to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox that allowed everyone in the home clubhouse to let out a collective exhale.

“Especially when we've lost a couple of tough ones, I think he even gets more inspired about being the guy to go out there and get deep in the game and give us a chance to win,” manager Bob Melvin said.

[STIGLICH: Instant Replay: Gray stifles White Sox in A's first win of 2016]

Gray held Chicago to three hits over seven innings, walking four but finding a way to get outs on a night when he knew early he didn’t have his best fastball. He leaned on his off-speed more and his natural movement. “He’s a damn good pitcher,” Sox catcher Alex Avila said. “I asked him, ‘How are you feeling?’, and he said, ‘Not too good.’ It didn’t seem that way.”

Gray registered a strong first impression with first-year teammate Ryan Madson, who compared Gray to one of his old Philadelphia Phillies teammates.

“He’s so polished, it’s crazy,” Madson said. “He reminds me kind of a right-handed Cliff Lee, where he’s just pounding the strike zone, real aggressive in the strike zone the whole game. And that’s tough to do as a starter.”

While Gray’s excellence often can be taken for granted, what made this an important win for the A’s (1-2) was what those around him did. The defense was solid, particularly shortstop Marcus Semien.

“That might be as good a game as we've seen him play,” Melvin said.

The A’s got just enough offense in the first two innings. Jed Lowrie delivered a sacrifice fly in the first – he’s driven in five of Oakland’s nine runs this season – and Mark Canha went the opposite way with a second-inning homer to right.

“It was a huge win for us,” Canha said. “Not only to win the game but win it in the fashion we won, a close game with the bullpen dealing like they did.”

John Axford handled the eighth, and with closer Sean Doolittle unavailable after pitching on back-to-back nights to start the series, Melvin went with Madson in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff single but closed it out, ending with a strikeout of Avila on a 3-2 changeup.

Madson gives Melvin a nice “Plan B” for the ninth when it’s needed, but Madson –- who saved 32 games for the Phillies in 2011 –- said roles aren’t something he and his bullpen mates are too concerned about.

“Any of the seven guys can pitch at any time,” he said. “That’s everybody’s motto, with Doolittle at the end. He’s our anchor.”

And there’s no doubt who the anchor of the rotation is. The A’s obviously take the field with confidence anytime they’re backing Gray, who is 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in April for his career.

“If we wanna be as good as we think we can be,” he said, “we need to start winning these types of games. Tonight was a step in that direction.”

Khris Davis leaves (and receives) lasting impression with special fan

Khris Davis leaves (and receives) lasting impression with special fan

OAKLAND -- Baseball is just a game. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you are battling for playoff position and every game matters. 

For Oakland A’s slugger Khris Davis, he was reminded of this fact during pregame on Monday evening when a special guest dropped by the dugout to meet him. 

Anthony Slocumb, a sixth grader from Claremont Middle School in Oakland, is a big-time fan of Davis. He’s also in remission after battling a rare cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

Before the game, Slocumb met Davis as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and asked for an autograph. Davis returned the favor, having the 10-year-old sign the back of his jersey before the A’s took on the Texas Rangers.

With blue ink sprawled across the back of his uniform, Davis stepped to the plate and gave Slocumb an incredible memory to hold onto, blasting a towering shot into the left field bleachers.

“There was a lot of emotion with those kid’s situation,” Davis said following the game. “It’s the worst situation you can be in, probably. I just wanted to put a smile on his face and thought maybe it would mean something if I had him my jersey signed by him.” 

These events play out often in professional sports, but Davis was moved by his experience Monday. The A’s leader in home runs crushed a ball that careened off a luxury box window an estimated 438 feet from home plate.

As he rounded the bases, he did so with a his newly found friend in mind. 

“I thought about him around the bases,” Davis said. “There’s not a better feeling than hitting a home run. And if he got some excitement and joy from watching that ... I hope he saw it.”  

Davis only had a few minutes to spend with Slocumb before the game, but it left him energized. The home run was Davis' 37th of the season, tying for second place in the majors, one behind the Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez. 

When asked whether he considered swapping out for a new jersey before the game, Davis gave a definitive - “no.” 

“I wanted to rock that. I wanted him to know I was thinking about him,” Davis said. 

The A’s are having a season of big moments. Coming away with a 9-0 win over the Rangers is great for the win/loss record, but for one fan, this was a game he’ll never forget. 

A's notes: Ramon Laureano leads Oakland power surge with two homers

A's notes: Ramon Laureano leads Oakland power surge with two homers

OAKLAND — The A’s keep rolling. After taking two of three against the Houston Astros over the weekend, Oakland’s hitters jumped all over Rangers starter Bartolo Colon Monday evening at the Coliseum.

With Mike Fiers dealing on the mound, the A’s position players crushed Colon for seven earned runs on 10 hits over five innings, coming away with a 9-0 win to improve to 75-50 on the season. 

--- A First and a Blast - Ramon Laureano got in on the power surge early, hitting his first big-league homer in the second inning off the top of the right field scoreboard. It was a nice moment for the rookie, but it was completely overshadowed by a shot from Kris Davis in the third. Davis crushed his 37th homer of the season an estimated 437 feet to left center field. The shot came off the bat of the A’s DH at an estimated 111 mph exit speed at a 28-degree angle and hit off the windows of a suite. The ball might have hit a BART train if not for Mount Davis impeding its path.  

--- Chasing J.D. - With home run No. 37, Davis is now tied for second place in the majors with Cleveland’s José Ramírez. The two sluggers trail Boston’s J.D. Martinez, who has 38 homers on the season. Davis is one RBI away from 100, which would give him three straight seasons in Oakland with 37-plus home runs and a 100 or more RBI.

--- Not to be Outdone - Laureano crushed a three-run blast in the six inning off of Colon for the first multi-homer game of his career. The 23-year-old center fielder finished the night 2-for-4 with the pair of jacks and five RBI. 

--- Starters on Fier - Mike Fiers picked up his second win in three starts as a member of the A's. He gave up a double to lead off the second inning, but then shut down the final 18 hitters he faced to pick up the victory. Oakland starters are now 10-2 over their last 18 games and have yielded two runs or fewer 15 times over that stretch. 

--- Stay Hot - With the win, Oakland improved to 41-14 over the last 55 games. They came into the evening tied with Boston for the best record in the majors over that stretch, but with the Red Sox' loss to the Indians, the A’s now lead by a game. 

--- Quiet Night - The official attendance on the evening was just 9,341. With the A’s battling for a playoff spot, the numbers have been all over the board.