OAKLAND –- All seemed right and calm in the A’s world Wednesday.
Sonny Gray made his belated season debut on the mound and turned in just the effort his team needed, as the A’s banked their first victory of 2016, 2-1, over the Chicago White Sox.
After getting scratched Opening Night and then taking an extra day to recover from the stomach flue, Gray was in excellent form throwing seven innings of three-hit ball. The A’s scratched out just enough early offense and made it stand. After dropping the first two of this four-game series in one-run fashion, there were no defensive lapses or bullpen hiccups that came back to haunt them.
John Axford threw a scoreless eighth, and it was Ryan Madson getting the call in the ninth to nail down the save. Sean Doolittle had thrown each of the past two nights, giving up a game-deciding homer Tuesday, and there were hints from Bob Melvin’s use of the bullpen during the Bay Bridge Series that he might consider Madson in the ninth on occasion.
But it was Gray’s presence on the mound, two days later than expected, that stabilized things for the A’s, who will try to salvage a split of this season-opening set Thursday afternoon.
Starting pitching report
After walking his first batter of the game, Gray (1-0) settled in and showed no visible effects from his bout with the stomach flu. He limited the Sox to just three hits over his seven innings, and the four walks he issued didn’t come back to haunt him. He struck out five over 97 pitches, showing the form that made him a Cy Young finalist in 2015.
Madson gave up Melky Cabrera’s leadoff single in the ninth but nailed down the save. As of the start of Wednesday’s game, A’s manager Bob Melvin had not addressed any thoughts of using anyone besides Doolittle in save situations. And outside of giving up Jimmy Rollins’ homer Tuesday, Doolittle’s stuff looked lively in the first two games of the series. But Melvin may have been leery of using him on three consecutive days. Given that Madson hadn’t allowed a run in nine previous outings this season (eight in spring training, one in regular season) it wasn’t a shock that Melvin called his number. The manager also used Madson after Doolittle in Friday’s exhibition against the Giants, and though the A’s were trailing at the time, it suggested the situation might be flexible.
At the plate
The A’s went quiet after scoring in each of the first two innings off Carlos Rodon (0-1). Billy Burns led off the bottom of the first with a single and eventually came around to score on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly. Mark Canha connected for Oakland’s first homer of the season in the second. After that, the A’s mustered just four more hits.
In the field
The A’s played an errorless game behind Gray and the two relievers.
The announced turnout was 16,468.
All indications are Kendall Graveman (6-9, 4.05 last season) will be recovered enough from the stomach flu to start Thursday’s 12:35 p.m. series finale on CSN California. Right-hander Mat Latos (4-10, 4.95) goes for the White Sox.