SEATTLE (AP) The consensus afterward was the best from Oakland’s Sonny Gray is yet to show.
This after the young right-hander overcame a shaky beginning to shut down Seattle for seven innings, giving up one run and matching his career high with nine strikeouts in the Athletics’ 3-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday night.
”We still haven’t seen his best game,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. ”At times he gets a little erratic with where he’s throwing his fastball, but a lot of times the ball has a mind of its own, too. It will cut, it will sink, it will do a lot of different things. That’s a strength of his too because the hitters never get a read on his fastball.”
Gray didn’t disagree with his manager’s assessment, even if in the bigger picture he’s off to a fantastic start. Gray has allowed only two earned runs in three starts this season and earned his second win in a week against Seattle.
Gray (2-0) gave up his only run in the first when Seattle failed to capitalize on having runners at first and third and no outs. Gray stymied the Mariners from there, allowing only singles to Logan Morrison in the fourth and Robinson Cano in the sixth, and a double by Dustin Ackley in the seventh.
Oakland won for the fifth time in six games.
”I definitely felt good tonight and was able to make a lot of pitches but it’s still something I have to get better at,” Gray said. ”I have to prepare better for the early innings and something we’re still working with. I have to be able to get into that routine that rhythm early on. We’ll work on it, we’ll get better at it and we’ll see what happens.”
Josh Donaldson provided Gray all the offense he needed, lining a 2-0 pitch from Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez (1-2) over the hand-operated scoreboard for a two-run homer in the first inning.
Oakland also got a wacky RBI single in the third from Brandon Moss that scored Coco Crisp, but the A’s should have scored more against the erratic Ramirez. In each of his five innings, Ramirez allowed the leadoff batter to reach. He gave up six hits and walked three, but managed to get through five innings, helping save Seattle’s bullpen.
”I don’t know what happened today,” Ramirez said. ”The last two starts have been, I don’t know, the ball is just running too much now.”
Moss’ RBI came on a play where he was out for passing the runner ahead of him, one of two plays involving Ackley in left field. Ackley made a sliding grab of Moss’ drive to left center but lost the ball. Donaldson, who was on first, headed back when he saw Ackley glove the ball and was passed by Moss, creating the out.
Then in the sixth, Yoenis Cespedes hit a line drive to Ackley that he again lost just before he could transfer the ball to his bare hand. Cespedes believed he was out and never made it to first base, stopping short and heading back to the dugout. Ackley threw to shortstop Brad Miller, who threw to first for the unusual 7-6-3 putout.
Donaldson was not pleased with how the rule is being implemented.
”I’ve been playing baseball for over 20 years now. If a ball goes in a glove it’s always been a catch to me,” Donaldson said. ”It does make it tough as a base runner when a guy is diving and you see it go in his glove the first instinct is to go back, not to watch him transfer the ball to his hand. It’s chaos.”
Cano had Seattle’s lone RBI on a groundout in the first that scored Abraham Almonte but scoring chances were few for the Mariners. Gray got strikeouts of Ackley and Almonte in the fourth and seventh innings to end scoring chances for Seattle.
Sean Doolittle got four outs before Luke Gregerson finished off his first save despite giving up two singles in the ninth.
NOTES: Gray has won his last five decisions going back to September 2013. . … RHP Chris Young will make his first start for Seattle on Sunday. Manager Lloyd McClendon said they would likely need to limit Young to about 90 pitches. Young has made only one appearance so far with the Mariners. … Crisp was back in the lineup after missing the past four games with a sore wrist.