OAKLAND –- Adding another chapter to his big-game scrapbook, Sonny Gray dazzled a sellout crowd Monday night and flirted with history at the Coliseum.
The right-hander held the Texas Rangers to one hit over eight innings, leading the A’s to an 8-0 victory that halted Oakland’s major league-record 10-game losing streak on Opening Day. A bigger story nearly developed, however, as Gray came within six outs of throwing just the second Opening Day no-hitter in major league history.
Ryan Rua grounded a clean single into right field to lead off the eighth for Texas’ first hit. That brought a raucous crowd to its feet for a standing ovation, followed by loud chants of “Sonny! Sonny!”
For a team that’s bumbled its way through so many season openers in the past decade, the A’s delivered a crowd-pleasing performance in all facets. Gray’s defense backed him up with a host of highlight-reel plays, including several from first baseman Ike Davis. Ben Zobrist homered on his first swing as an Athletic and Stephen Vogt added a three-run homer to break the game open in the seventh.
But it was Gray, beginning just his second full major league season, who commanded the night. It was the second time in as many starts against Texas that he dominated. In game 162 last season, he tossed a shutout in Arlington to clinch a wild-card berth for Oakland.
Monday’s gem accompanied the electric atmosphere that always comes with a season opener. It resembled other times Gray has come up huge on the big stage. He outdueled Yu Darvish last April on national television for his first career shutout, which also came in Arlington. In the 2013 A.L. Division Series, Gray staged a memorable Game 2 duel with Detroit’s Justin Verlander that the A’s ultimately won 1-0.
Starting pitching report
Gray went eight innings in a 98-pitch effort that included three strikeouts, one walk and a hit batter.
Evan Scribner came on in the ninth and finished off the shutout.
At the plate
The A’s banged out 11 hits and chased Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo after just four innings. Zobrist’s two-run homer in the first got things rolling and continued the hot spring that the first-year Athletic enjoyed.
In the field
Despite Craig Gentry’s error in the sixth, the A’s turned in a gem of a defensive game after talking all spring about how much better they’d be in that facet of the game. Centerfielder Sam Fuld got it going on the game’s first batter, making a sliding catch of Leonys Martin’s fly to right-center. But it was the new-look infield that truly shined. Ike Davis scooped two throws in the dirt to complete impressive fielding plays by third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Davis left his feet to stop Elvis Andrus’ grounder in the fourth and fired a throw that Gray did well to handle covering first. Marcus Semien, playing his first game as Oakland’s starting shortstop, went up the middle to eat up Rougned Odor’s in the sixth and made the throw to first. And in the seventh, second baseman Eric Sogard went to a knee to make a terrific stop of Adrian Beltre’s sharp grounder that seemed ticketed for right field.
The A’s other four starting pitchers had to like what they saw while watching from the dugout.
A sellout crowd of 36,067 cheered through chilly weather that was colder than many Raider games in the fall.
After coming over in a December trade from the San Diego Padres, right-hander Jesse Hahn makes his A’s debut in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game. He’ll oppose Colby Lewis.