ARLINGTON, Texas – Sonny Gray’s struggles through parts of September raised questions about whether the right-hander might be tiring.
He provided an answer Sunday.
Gray delivered the second shutout of his big league career as the A’s beat the Texas Rangers 4-0 to clinch a Wild Card berth on the final day of the regular season.
It was a tedious, tortuous road the A’s traveled to the playoffs, but they punched their ticket to a third straight postseason in the manner they wanted – with a victory, and not having to rely on the Seattle Mariners to lose later in the day. When Gray retired Jake Smolinski on a fly out to left to end it, the A’s poured out of the dugout and formed a mob around him at the pitcher’s mound.
The A’s, who finished 88-74, will travel to Kansas City to play the Royals in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card game at Kauffman Stadium.
Gray (14-10), finishing up his first full season in the major leagues, came in 0-3 in five September starts and carrying a 4.22 ERA for the month. Going back further, he had a 4.31 ERA since the start of August after winnign Pitcher of the Month honors in July
But coming off a 12-strikeout performance in his last start against the Angels, the 24-year-old Gray picked up where he left off Sunday, ringing up his second career shutout. His first also happened to come at Globe Life Park, back on April 28.
The A’s had wobbled to a 15-30 record since Aug. 10, watching their division title hopes fall by the wayside. It took until game No. 162, but they finally had reason to celebrate.
Starting pitching report
Gray was terrific, quite simply.
He mixed his fastball and breaking stuff expertly and kept the Rangers off balance all day.
His biggest jam came in the fifth, when Texas put runners on the corners with no outs. But he struck out Luis Sardinas and got Adam Rosales to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
He gave up six hits, struck out five and walked none.
The most exercise the relievers got was running in from the bullpen to join the postgame party.
At the plate
The A’s did damage early and then, as is their custom, they went silent for a long period.
Brandon Moss led off the second with a double to left-center. Josh Reddick followed and blasted a triple off the center wall to score Moss. Then after Jed Lowrie popped up, Stephen skied a blooper to shallow center that fell in front of Leonys Martin for an RBI single that made it 2-0.
That was it until the ninth, when Jed Lowrie singled home two runs for some breathing room.
It was noteworthy that Moss got the A’s first scoring rally started. The struggling cleanup man came in hitting just .140 for September. However, it was no surprise to see Reddick deliver a big run-scoring hit. He was hitting .483 (14-for-29) with eight RBI over his previous nine games.
In the field
Two double plays helped Gray’s cause.
A crowd of 36,381 was on hand.
The A’s head to Kansas City and will play the Royals in the American League Wild Card game Tuesday. First pitch is set for 5:07 p.m. This will be Oakland’s first time playing in the Wild Card game, and it’s the first postseason appearance of any kind for the Royals since 1985. Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46) will take the ball for the A’s, and James Shields (14-8, 3.21) draws the start for the Royals.