The last time Sonny Gray pitched, he was removed without allowing a run after being tagged on the right ankle by a batted ball. Now that the injury concern has passed, the Oakland Athletics are just hoping the scare will in no way throw off his impressive season.
The right-hander returns to the mound Friday night at home against the New York Yankees as Alex Rodriguez hopes to pass Barry Bonds for second on the all-time RBI list.
Gray (5-2, 1.77 ERA) earned the decision in Sunday’s 7-2 win in Tampa Bay, despite being limited to five innings because of the injury. He allowed four hits and has the AL’s lowest ERA, as well as the fifth-lowest by an Oakland pitcher through 10 starts during the designated hitter era. Dan Haren was the last to better him with a 1.74 ERA in 2007, and only Steve Ontiveros’ seven earned runs in his first 10 starts in 1994 were fewer than Gray’s 13.
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The rest of the A’s staff has closed the gap. After Thursday’s series-opening 5-4 win, Oakland (18-32) has won four of six overall, 15 of 20 against the Yankees (25-23) and 10 of 11 against them in Oakland. The three runs allowed by Kendall Graveman are the only earned runs the starting staff has allowed in 36 2-3 innings over the A’s last six games. The rotation hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in 17 games for an MLB-best 2.42 mark dating to May 11.
What hasn’t improved is their fielding. Another error Thursday padded their MLB lead to 51, nearly doubling the 26 their opponents have committed.
That was overshadowed offensively as Billy Burns and Brett Lawrie homered to help overcome a 3-0 deficit.
"We played the game the right way tonight," Lawrie said.
Gray’s one career start against the Yankees resulted in a 7-0 home loss on June 13 after yielding three runs and seven hits in six innings.
His opposition, Chris Capuano, has allowed as many home runs in two starts as Gray has all season – two – and it hasn’t been only the long ball that’s plagued his return to the rotation. Filling in for the injured Chase Whitley, the left-hander has lasted just 7 1-3 innings in those outings. Capuano (0-2, 7.36) allowed three runs and eight hits with a home run in 4 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 5-2 home loss to Texas.
"My No. 1 goal going out there was to get deep in the game and take pressure off the bullpen," Capuano told MLB’s official website. "Going 4 1-3 innings, I’m not happy with that. I need to pitch better."
Since joining the Yankees in late July, his best work has come on the road with a 2-3 record and 3.67 ERA in six starts as opposed to a 0-2 mark with a 5.35 ERA in eight starts at Yankee Stadium.
He faced the A’s three times last season in relief with Boston and allowed four runs and five hits in 1 1-3 innings.
The Yankees had won three in a row before Thursday, but they’ve still lost 11 of their last 15. That includes four straight road losses and defeats in eight of nine after beginning the season 12-5 in opposing parks. They haven’t dropped five straight on the road since June 11-15, 2013, which included three losses in Oakland.
Rodriguez matched Bonds with his 1,996th RBI Thursday on a sacrifice fly.
Brian McCann homered for a third straight game and has at least a hit and an RBI in six straight while going 8 for 19 with 10 RBIs.