Programming note: A’s-Tigers coverage starts Thursday at 10 a.m. on CSN California.
Sonny Gray continues to set the bar extremely high for the A’s rotation.
Excellent starting pitching has been a driving force behind Oakland’s recent surge, and Gray has been the unparalleled standard bearer.
He dazzled in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, throwing eight innings of two-hit ball and taking over the Major League ERA lead at 1.65.
His fastball, both two-seam and four-seam, was dominant from the get-go. As the innings ticked away, he also found the feel for his slider, a pitch that has emerged as a major weapon for him this season.
Opponents are hitting .186 against Gray, third best in the majors. His WHIP (walks & hits per innings pitched) ratio stands at 0.91, tied for second-best in the majors, and his seven wins are tied for second-most in the American League.
Those numbers all speak for themselves, and it’s a good thing they do, because Gray still shies away from talking too much about his own accomplishments. He was asked after Wednesday’s win if this was his best outing of the season.
“Um, I don’t know,” Gray said, with the tone of a guy ready to change the subject. “I felt good. It was a good outing for sure.”
[RELATED: Gray dominates Tigers, A's roll to 6-1 win]
And it’s a lot for his teammates to live up to. But that’s what needs to be pointed out.
The A’s starters, as a whole, are getting it done in a big way. As Oakland aims for its first series sweep of the season Thursday, the rotation has posted a 1.36 ERA over the last 11 games, during which the team is 8-3. Over the past 21 games, it’s a 2.28 mark. And for the season, the starters lead the AL with a 3.14 ERA.
On Thursday, Jesse Hahn takes the ball in the series finale at Comerica Park. It was just two starts ago that Hahn dominated at the Coliseum against these same Tigers, throwing his first career shutout. He was putting another nice outing together Saturday against the New York Yankees. Then Carlos Beltran hit a sinker for a two-run homer that changed the complexion of Hahn’s night in a 5-3 loss.
But Thursday provides a clean slate. And there seems to be a healthy competition within the rotation right now, with each starter wanting to throw a quality outing to match the one delivered right before him.
Sweep or no sweep, the A’s have won back-to-back series for the first time all season. They dug a deep hole for themselves, but they’re climbing back toward the surface and can at least glimpse the sunlight. At 22-33, they trail faltering Seattle by three games to climb out of the AL West cellar. Granted, it wouldn’t warrant a champagne shower. But attacking smaller, reachable goals is the key right now. The A’s aren’t going to climb back into the AL West race overnight.
“We all had to get on the same page,” right fielder Josh Reddick said. “It took us a little longer than most teams do. We’re finally clicking together. Now we’re showing the league what we can do when we’re all clicking on the same cylinder. It’s fun baseball to be a part of.”