Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A’s
The A’s have been waiting for six weeks for their slump to end.
You know the one. It’s seen Oakland lose 30 of their last 45 games and has seen the A’s go from the next American League power to a team that is perhaps hours away from failing to make the post-season at all.
If that were to happen, it would go do as one of the great collapses of all-time, perhaps the biggest in Major League history. Other teams have fallen about as far about as fast, but none of them had the lifelines of two Wild Card berths awaiting non-Division Champions.
The A’s have to win Sunday, have the Mariners lose Sunday or, failing that, beat Seattle in a one-game playoff Monday to avoid having that added to their resume.
Felix Hernandez wasn’t enough for Mariners as A’s win in 10 innings, 3-2
The A’s aren’t going to see Felix Hernandez again this season.
But this post-season? Well there’s an excellent chance they’ll see King Felix in the Wild Card game Sept. 30. The A’s and the Mariners and whichever American League Central second-place team (the Tigers or the Royals) stand as the likeliest candidates to earn Wild Card berths.
If it’s the A’s and the Mariners, there’s a good chance that Hernandez will take the mound for Seattle if he doesn’t have to pitch Seattle into the playoffs on the final day of the season Sept. 28.
For the A’s, the recent memory of having won a game that Hernandez started will be a counterbalance to the 4-0 record Hernandez has against Oakland this season and his 19-7 overall record against the A’s.
Coco Crisp helped get the A’s back on track Friday with a homer and a double to do in the Angels.
It had been a sad stretch for the A’s in the first 19 games of August, winning just eight of them.
So when the Angels opened up Friday with Mike Trout hitting a homer off Sonny Gray, it had a chance to be more of the same.
That it wasn’t was thanks to Coco Crisp. The A’s center fielder, who earlier in the week was finding a way out of a 5-for-43 skid, homered off the Angels’ Hector Santiago and suddenly things were sweetness and light.
Or as manager Bob Melvin put it, “when Coco hit that home run it was like, `all right, we’re fine.’ ’’
Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.
The A’s have asked much of their starting pitchers in the first half.
Between then, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez have averaged 119 innings per man in the first half, during which they’ve gone 28-12 with a combined 2.77 ERA.
They are using a rejiggered rotation after the All-Star break to maximize the amount of time each will get off. To do that, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have gone with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to handle the first two games after the All-Star break Friday and Saturday against the Orioles in Oakland.
There are some hidden depths to the A’s trade with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
One of which is that it is a preemptive strike at the rest of Major League Baseball’s contending teams, almost all of which believe they need more starting pitching.
The Yankees do. The Orioles do. The Blue Jays do. And the list is long.
A’s have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.
The last week hasn’t been much for the A’s, what with being swept in a three-game series in Toronto and then coming home and having to settle for getting a split with the Detroit Tigers.
It’s as well to be noted that the Blue Jays have the best record in the American League East. The Tigers have the best record in the AL Central. And, yes, the A’s have the best record in the AL West exactly one-third of the way through the 162-game schedule.
For the first 54 games they’ve played, the A’s have been perhaps the most dominant team in the league. It doesn’t always get reflected in the winning percentage – Toronto, Detroit and Oakland are all in the range of .600, which over the course of the year would come out to 97 wins.
Josh Reddick (16) saved the day for a few hours for the A’s with a bases-loaded catch at the wall.
Josh Reddick began the Cactus League almost three months ago by steal a pair of home runs from the Giants’ Mike Morse.
And in the 10 weeks since, it’s good to know he hasn’t forgotten how to do it.
The A’s right fielder made one of the best catches of his career in the third inning Thursday, racing from medium-shallow right field to deep right-center to make a leaping catch against the wall with the bases loaded.
“When he starts to run that hard, you know something cool is about to happen,’’ A’s starter Sonny Gray said.
When Sonny Gray gave up four consecutive hits Saturday, Sean Doolittle could empathize.
When A’s starter Sonny Gray gave up four consecutive hits in the third inning Saturday, manager Bob Melvin said it was shocking.
“You don’t expect Sonny to give up two consecutive hits,’’ the manager said, “much less four.’’
Sean Doolittle could appreciate the moment. It was back on April 26 when the A’s left-handed reliever entered a game in Houston with the A’s and Astros tied at 3-all in the bottom of the eighth.
Single, single, single, single. Just like that Doolittle, who had an ERA at the time of 3.09, just about doubled it to 6.17, giving up four runs without getting anyone out. To make matters worse, the A’s scored three runs in the ninth and had the tying run on base before taking a 7-6 loss.
That game was like a taser to Doolittle’s pitching strategy.
A’s Sonny Gray en route to three-hit shutout of Rangers last week.
Red Sox manager John Farrell has not seen A’s starter Sonny Gray pitch in person.
A few hours from now, he won’t be able to say that. Gray starts for the first time Sunday afternoon (10:30 a.m. in the Bay Area) in Fenway Park. Even without having seen Gray, Farrell talks like he knows the second-year Oakland starter is the real deal.
“He’s a guy that’s got very good stuff,’’ Farrell said Sunday morning. “He’s going to be in the low- to mid-90s (mph) and with a very good curveball. And from what we’ve come to understand, he’s a very confident young pitcher that’s gotten to the big leagues quick.
“He pitched in a very advanced program at Vanderbilt and he doesn’t back away from or fear the Major League challenge. That’s evident by the numbers that he’s put up this year.’’
After never having caught Scott Kazmir, John Jaso found working with the lefty easy as could be.
John Jaso didn’t know for certain that he was catching Sunday until a few hours before the game.
He was told Saturday night that he might, so he was prepared, but since he’d never caught Scott Kazmir, he couldn’t be sure.
“Not even for a stretch in batting practice,’’ Jaso said. “I’ve never caught him. And I was lucky, because Scott is so easy to catch. Now if it had been Sonny Gray, that would have been different.’’