NEW YORK — Standing in front of the media and speaking about facing the Oakland Athletics for the first time, Sonny Gray admitted his voice was sore from the excitement his teammates generated in their eighth-inning comeback against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
Now Gray hopes to give the New York Yankees something to get excited about Friday when he faces his former team in the opener of a three-game series against Oakland at Yankee Stadium.
Gray will be pitching after the Yankees had an eight-game winning streak halted with a 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. The Yankees also saw their 11-game home winning streak end and lost for the second time in 19 games after Dellin Betances allowed a tiebreaking homer to J.D. Martinez in the eighth inning.
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“No, I don’t think it’s something that’s weird,” Gray said about facing the A’s. “I think (it’s) definitely exciting. There’s obviously a ton of familiar faces over there. I know a lot of those guys, really, really well. So, it will be exciting. It will be familiar, it’ll be fun. The best-case scenario for me is if we can come out with a victory.”
Gray is 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA this season and 6-9 with a 4.48 ERA since the Yankees acquired him for outfielder Dustin Fowler, infielder Jorge Mateo and right-hander James Kaprielian about an hour before the July 31 trade deadline.
Gray has lowered his ERA from 7.71 in his last two starts by allowing four runs and eight hits in 12 innings during a loss at Houston on April 30 and a win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.
“I feel very confident going in. I feel just as good as I’ve felt all season,” Gray said. “Just feel good throwing the baseball. The ball feels good in my hand and I think that’s always the beginning of something good.”
Gray also made his second straight start throwing to catcher Austin Romine and will likely do so again. While the Yankees do not necessarily favor personal catchers, the right-hander has a 3.71 ERA in five starts with Romine and a 15.63 ERA in two outings with Sanchez.
“I trust that guy completely, knowing whatever he puts down, shake your head yes and throw it with conviction,” Gray said.
Familiarity will be a big theme of Friday’s game.
Besides Gray facing several former teammates and friends, one hitter he is expected to face is Fowler. Fowler suffered a devastating knee injury in his only inning for the Yankees.
“He’s a special player,” Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin said of his former minor league teammate. “I’ve always been a fan of his abilities and him as a player. For him to get back up here after the injury he had last year is special. I’m excited to see him.”
“It’s just the perfect story,” Fowler told reporters. “The guy I got traded for, getting to face him. It’ll be nice to be in New York and play in front of that crowd. It’ll be exciting. I’m ready to get there.”
While Gray has spent his time in New York pitching to mixed results, Fowler has undergone a rigorous rehab process from a serious knee injury sustained June 29 at Chicago. In the top of the first inning of a game against the White Sox, Fowler was playing right field and ruptured his patellar tendon running into an electrical box in pursuit of a fly ball by Jose Abreu.
A month later he was traded to the A’s and once the rehab ended, he batted .310 with three homers, eight stolen bases and 16 RBIs at Triple-A Nashville before popping out in his first at-bat in the seventh inning of a 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros.
“The knee’s been fine,” Fowler told reporters in Oakland. “I haven’t had any issues so far. I haven’t had any speed I lost. So, everything’s been good. Hopefully we can stay away from walls this go-around.”
Fowler is regarded as Oakland’s center fielder of the future and is expected to see ample at-bats against right-handed pitching.
“You talk about your center fielder of the future, this is the guy we’ve targeted for that,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin told reporters. “Against righties, he’ll get plenty of starts. There’s no reason to bring him here and not play him.”
The Oakland hitters with the most experience against Gray are Matt Joyce (7-for-21) and Jed Lowrie (2-for-10). Lowrie is hitting .338 and was 1-for-9 as the A’s were outscored 24-5 during a three-game sweep by the Astros.
Stephen Piscotty will not be with the team as he will be placed on the bereavement list following his mother’s passing from ALS earlier this week.
Oakland was originally slated to start Trevor Cahill Friday. Cahill went on the disabled list Wednesday with right elbow impingement and is expected to only miss one start.
The A’s have not officially announced their starter for Friday, but it is expected to be Kendall Graveman. He would be making his seventh start and attempting to get his first win. Graveman is 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA so far.
He last pitched April 25 when he allowed three runs and six hits in six innings of a 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers. Graveman was optioned to the minors on April 26, and with Triple-A Nashville he allowed eight runs in two starts.
Graveman is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.