The Baltimore Orioles have thus far dodged Sonny Gray, and the results have been as one might expect for a playoff contender against a last-place team with an ailing ace.
The playing field will likely even some Monday night at Camden Yards with Gray expected to start as the Oakland Athletics attempt to avoid a four-game sweep following an embarrassing loss.
Gray (12-4, 2.06 ERA) missed his scheduled start Thursday in Toronto because of back spasms but threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Saturday without issue, so a Tuesday matchup against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is now off the table.
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"We want to get Sonny out there as soon as we can," A’s manager Bob Melvin told MLB’s official website. "He would love to pitch against Kershaw, and that was quite the potential marquee matchup, but he wants to be out there for his team as soon as he can."
The right-hander’s last three starts make it easy to understand why Melvin won’t delay with Gray winning twice with two complete games and a 0.72 ERA. He’s also 6-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last seven road starts.
Gray, however, is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts against the Orioles – none this year – with both losses coming at Camden. Adam Jones is 3 for 8 with a home run against the Cy Young contender, while J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado are both 2 for 6.
He won’t have a limited pitch count, and the A’s (51-68) certainly want him to go deep after Sunday’s 18-2 loss in which starter Kendall Graveman lasted just 3 1-3 innings. Baltimore had 26 hits to tie the franchise record and improved to 5-1 in the season series, averaging 7.7 runs while batting .333.
After dipping three games under .500 on July 24, the Orioles (60-56) are 14-7 and scoring 5.3 runs per game.
Gerardo Parra recorded his third career five-hit game Sunday and is 9 for 15 in this series with homers in the last two. Jones homered twice and is batting .400 with five home runs in his last six. Eight of his 22 home runs for the season have come in his last 13 games at Camden.
Chris Tillman (8-7, 4.66) has often benefited from such run support and hasn’t lost since May 31, going 6-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 11 starts. He was lucky for that streak to remain alive after his last start.
The right-hander served up five runs and eight hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 6-5 loss in Seattle on Tuesday after holding his previous three opponents to one run in 23 2-3 innings. It was his first start since July 29 because of a sprained ankle, but he didn’t use it or being hit on the right triceps by a liner as an excuse.
"Physically, I felt good," Tillman said. "I just was not making good pitches."
He’s also squeezed through the cracks in the season series, but he’s 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts against Oakland. Coco Crisp (1 for 8) and Billy Butler (2 for 14) have struggled with Tillman, and Josh Reddick, Eric Sogard and Stephen Vogt are all 0 for 5.
Oakland has lost seven straight on the road, including the first six of its seven-game trip. It last dropped seven in a row overall and eight straight on the road on the same eight-game losing streak in 2008.
Baltimore’s Matt Wieters has missed four straight games with a strained hamstring. If he doesn’t show improvement Monday, he could land on the disabled list.