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.”

Dontrelle Willis hilariously reacts to Steve Bartman cutout at A's-Mariners

Dontrelle Willis hilariously reacts to Steve Bartman cutout at A's-Mariners

Of all the cardboard cutouts present at T-Mobile Park for the A's series in Seattle this past weekend against the Mariners, one seemed to stand out. In left field, Steve Bartman, the Chicago Cubs fan who became famous for reaching for a foul ball during an NLCS game against the Florida Marlins in 2003, a game Chicago went on to lose, was right there in the front row.

NBC Sports California analyst Dontrelle Willis was a member of that Marlins squad that went on to win the 2003 World Series, and says he and Moises Alou, the Cubs outfielder who was kept from catching the ball by Bartman, still aren't on the best of terms.

[RELATED: What you might have missed in A's gritty win over Mariners]

"Everytime I see Moises he wants to fight me," Willis quipped Sunday night on Twitter.

Willis was part of the Marlins' rotation from 2003-07, and was named the NL's Rookie of the Year in that season after going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA.

MLB teams have had to employ cardboard cutouts of fans in lieu of the real thing, as no spectators will be permitted at games during the abbreviated 2020 season as result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fans have to appreciate that MLB teams like the Mariners are trying to have a little fun in what has been an up-and-down season to say the least.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

Chris Bassitt’s stellar outing in the A's 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday almost wasn’t. But we’ll let the first inning be just a memory.

“I told myself after the first inning, I’m like ‘All right, you may be a little wild today, but don’t walk guys, make them earn everything,’ and it obviously smoothed itself out,” Bassitt told reporters in the postgame interview. 

Bassitt hit J.P. Crawford in the first with a curveball. After Dylan Moore hit into a fielder's choice and stole second, he came around to score on a single by Daniel Vogelbach.

Bassitt's performance more than smoothed itself out, and he had the help of rookie catcher Austin Allen in the process. In 5 2/3 innings, Bassitt allowed just one earned run, three hits and struck out seven. 

“Austin kind of guided me through the first inning and [got] going from there,” Bassitt said. “After the second inning, I just kind of felt myself out and I was kind of locked in from there on out." 

Allen came to the A's an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for Jurickson Profar. And while he’s the new guy, Allen was able to form a bond with Bassitt quicker than usual. 

“Me and Austin spent a lot of time together over the last -- I would say two, three weeks just getting to know one another, talking about what I like, what I don’t like,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, a new catcher coming in, he’s got to learn basically me -- he’s got to learn who I am mentally, who I am physically, what I can and can’t do.

"I think we’re still learning each other, but at the same time, I think a lot more ahead of what we should be just because, again -- me and [Sean Murphy] are on the same page, and I think Austin’s done a great job of learning who I am.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The fifth inning came fast, but before Bassitt was pulled, he wanted to make it count against Mariners rookie outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is hitting .425 with three home runs this season. 

Bassitt glanced over to the bullpen to see A’s reliever T.J. McFarland warming up, knowing Vogelbach was about to come to the plate. He had an internal message for Lewis. 

“All right, if you’re going to hit me, you’re going to hit my best pitch, so uh … here we go,” Bassitt explained. “So yeah, I knew that was my last batter.”

[RELATED: Luzardo to make first big-league start next week]

Bassitt struck Lewis out.

And Bassitt continues to improve.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Bassitt was fantastic and “seems to get better every time out.”