OAKLAND COLISEUM — In a brilliant pitching duel between young starters, the A’s and Sonny Gray came out on top Saturday night, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1.
Both starting pitchers were tremendous, with both Gray and Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb striking out five of their first six batters.
However, it was the A’s who got their starter some run support — just enough — to claim the win.
With the scoreless after 5-1/2 innings, Stephen Vogt led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a triple that sailed over the head of Wil Myers in right field and bounced off the wall.
Vogt came in to score when the next batter, Coco Crisp, singled up the middle to give Oakland a 1-0 lead. It wasn’t much, but it was all the A’s pitching staff needed.
In just his fifth Major League start, Gray was dominant, throwing 6-2/3 innings, allowing five hits, walking one, and striking out seven. He’s now 2-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his rookie season. Perhaps most impressed with Gray’s performance was the man catching him – Vogt:
“Sonny’s fun to watch, I don’t care who you are. The way he pitches, the way he bounces off the mound and fields his position. I’ve seen him do it all year … he’s an electric pitcher and he’s a great fielder and he’s a tremendous athlete.”
Oakland added an insurance run on a solo home run by Crisp in the bottom of the eighth inning that proved to be huge, as Balfour struggled to close the game in the ninth.
After allowing a one-out double to Myers and a walk to James Loney, Balfour gave up an RBI single to Desmond Jennings before closing out the game for his 35th save of the season.
Tampa Bay’s Cobb (L, 8-3 2.82 ERA) pitched an eight-inning complete game on his way to taking the loss. He allowed two A’s runs, five hits, four walks, and struck out seven.
A’s manager Bob Melvin knows how effective Cobb can be against Oakland:
A’s manager Bob Melvin
“He pitches backwards completely. We know it, but it’s still tough to sit there in a 2-1 count and look for a change-up. His change-up looks like his fastball, so he throws the breaking ball for the strikes, he throws the split-change for chase … he’s just a tough guy to think along with.”
Cobb managed to lower his ERA to 2.82, but fell victim to the struggling Rays offense. Saturday night was Tampa Bay’s fourth one-run loss in the last week, and they’ve hit just one home run during that span.
The Oakland crowd of 35,067 was loud all evening for their A’s, and Gray definitely felt their energy on the mound.
“The fans are great here. I love pitching here. I love pitching in front of the fans. … I think in the fourth inning when I had two men on, and you can tell, they really get behind you and help you get that last hitter. It’s nice to have that little kick.”
Coliseum fans will look to bring that presence again on Sunday as the A’s send A.J. Griffin to the mound and go for the sweep at 1:05 p.m.
Saturday’s win gives Oakland just its fourth series win in the last ten. … The A’s went 14-13 in August, extending their streak of consecutive winning months to nine dating back to last June. .. Gray has tossed at least six innings in four of his five starts and has allowed two or fewer runs three times. … Yoenis Cespedes is 8 for 46 (.174) with 15 strikeouts over his last 11 games. … Vogt’s triple in the sixth was the first of his career.