A pitcher’s duel was expected Monday night at Rangers Ballpark. Only one of those pitchers apparently got the notice.
A’s right-hander Sonny Gray delivered his first career shutout in Oakland’s 4-0 victory over Texas in the opener of a three-game series between the American League West’s top clubs.
His counterpart, Rangers ace Yu Darvish, got served another dish of frustration against the team that gives him more fits than any. The A’s chased Darvish (1-1) after just 3 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of Darvish’s major league career.
The Japanese right-hander is now 0-7 in his past eight starts against Oakland. Gray (4-1), meanwhile, bounced back after the Rangers saddled him with his first loss of the season in his last start. He threw a three-hitter, and rather than racking up eye-popping strikeout numbers, he pitched to contact, which kept his pitch count down and allowed him to go the distance. He struck out six and walked one.
The Rangers advanced just one runner as far as third base. That came in the sixth, and Gray ended that threat by getting Elvis Andrus to ground out to third. The A’s arrived in Arlington on a flat note, having dropped two straight to the Houston Astros. But behind Gray, they took the opener of this three-game set and moved back into sole possession of first place, one game ahead of the Rangers.
Starting pitching report
Gray uncorked two wild pitches in the sixth that contributed to Texas’ only real threat, but he silenced the Rangers all night. He sat at 99 pitches after eight innings and there was no doubt he would come out for the ninth. He set Texas down in order in the final frame, getting two fly outs and a groundout – a good microcosm of his night.
The relievers got to kick their feet up and simply enjoy Gray’s gem.
At the plate
The Rangers wanted their ace to face the A’s. A day off Thursday helped them push Darvish back in the rotation, and he took the mound Monday on six days’ rest. But the A’s did what they always do to the right-hander, patiently working counts and driving his pitch count up.
He was already at 70 pitches by the time he took the mound for the fourth. With the A’s already up 2-0, John Jaso led off that inning with a single and Josh Reddick drilled a ball down the right-field line that went for an RBI triple.
Daric Barton followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. After walking No. 9 hitter Eric Sogard for the second time, Darvish got the hook from manager Ron Washington.
The A’s laid off several close pitches on two-strike counts. Amazingly, 13 of the first 26 batters they sent to the plate worked the count to full. Josh Donaldson’s two-run single broke a scoreless tie in the third.
In the field
Gray helped himself early with two ground-ball double plays. He was aided by some nifty defense from third baseman Josh Donaldson, who made like a shortstop with the infield shift on.
Donaldson covered second on Prince Fielder’s grounder to second in the first inning. He made a bare-hand grab of the flip from Eric Sogard and threw on to first to complete the double play. In the fourth, he made a sliding stop on Fielder’s grounder up the middle, spun and made the throw to first for the out.
It’s a matchup of standout lefties as Scott Kazmir (3-0, 1.62) squares off against Martin Perez (4-0, 1.42) on Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. Perez is riding a 26-inning scoreless streak, and he three-hit the A’s on Wednesday.