Sonny Gray pitches brilliantly more often than not, but what puts him in an elite class is his ability to work himself out of jams with in-game adjustments.
He hasn’t encountered too many issues at Safeco Field.
The Oakland Athletics hand the ball to Gray on Friday night as they begin the final series of their road trip by looking to deal the Seattle Mariners a seventh loss in eight games.
Gray (4-0, 1.67 ERA) entered his sixth outing of the season Sunday having walked six in 36 1-3 innings while not issuing more than four in any of his previous 48 career starts.
The right-hander struggled with control against Texas and walked seven while also hitting a batter, but also struck out 10 – two short of his career high – and surrendered two hits in 6 2-3 scoreless innings of a 7-1 victory.
”You just have some days when you pick the ball up and you know it’s going to be a battle,” Gray said. ”You’ve just got to grind through.”
The Mariners (11-17) already had trouble solving Gray, who allowed one earned run in 7 1-3 innings before Seattle rallied for a 5-4 victory in 11 at Oakland on April 11.
Gray is 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in eight career starts overall against the Mariners, including a 3-0 mark with a 0.98 ERA in four outings at Safeco. He gave up two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 victory the last time he took the hill there Sept. 13.
Seattle is looking forward to playing at home after dropping six of seven to end a 10-game trip. It suffered back-to-back walk-off defeats to the Los Angeles on Tuesday and Wednesday, falling 5-4 and 4-3.
The Mariners and A’s (12-18) fought to the wire for the AL’s second wild-card spot last season, but currently occupy the bottom two spots of the West.
"We got off to a tough start last year and were able to battle," said Kyle Seager, who hit a two-run homer Wednesday. "We’ve got a lot more talent in this room then we did last year. We’ve shown different signs throughout the season. The pitching’s been good, the hitting’s been good, we just have to get everything in sync."
Nelson Cruz has been the Mariners’ top offensive threat, leading the majors with 14 homers and hitting .389 over his last nine. Cruz will look to improve his 1-for-9 career line against Gray as Taijuan Walker takes the mound for Seattle.
Walker (1-3, 8.74) has been extremely inconsistent, going fewer than five innings in three of his five starts but also showing signs of promise. He gave up 14 runs through 7 1-3 innings while losing his first two starts, then allowed one earned run in 12 1-3 over his next two.
But the 22-year-old right-hander had another rough outing Saturday, giving up eight runs in three innings of an 11-4 loss to Houston.
"It’s not going to happen overnight," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You see flashes of him being brilliant almost. Then you see the youngster in him. It’s going to take time, but in the end, I think he’s going to be pretty good."
Walker’s only career start against the A’s came in his season debut, when he allowed nine runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-0 loss April 10.
Oakland enters this series after dropping three of four to Minnesota with Thursday’s 6-5 loss to fall to 3-4 on its trip.