OAKLAND –- Watching Sonny Gray rise to the occasion in a marquee game is a familiar sight.
On Friday, A’s fans also saw what newcomer Danny Valencia brings to the table.
With Gray outdueling Astros ace Dallas Keuchel in his third complete game of the season, Valencia had his fingerprints on every other aspect of Oakland’s 3-1 victory at the Coliseum.
Drawing his second start since being claimed off waivers Monday from Toronto, Valencia homered off Keuchel in the third and showed a slick glove at third base in support of Gray, who threw a five-hitter in a matchup of arguably the American League’s top two Cy Young award contenders. It was Gray’s third complete game over his past six starts, as he lowered his ERA to an AL-low 2.06.
The A’s acquired the right-handed hitting Valencia to provide some pop against opposing left-handers. It just so happened he came in with a 5-for-9 career mark against the stingy Keuchel (13-6), prompting manager Bob Melvin to bat him cleanup.
Valencia delivered, singling and drawing a walk to go along with his homer. He made all the plays at third base, including a terrific running basket catch in foul territory to end the top of the seventh. Valencia also started an around-the-horn double play to end the top of the eighth and ensure Gray (12-4) would get the chance to go the distance.
Starting pitching report
Gray was outstanding. He didn’t walk a batter, and though he racked up a modest five strikeouts, that pitch-to-contact approach allowed him to budget his pitches and make sure he was on the hill to start the ninth. He set the Astros down in order in the ninth to complete his 107-pitch outing. The game clocked in at just 2 hours, 20 minutes, no surprise considering the pitching matchup.
Preston Tucker’s sharp comebacker caught Gray flush on the right calf in the top of the fifth. He covered to run the ball down and throw to first for the out, then stayed in the game after a visit from head trainer Nick Paparesta.
The relief corps surely enjoyed the view from down the left-field line.
At the plate
The A’s got to Keuchel for 10 hits and worked his pitch count up early, a surprising offensive performance from a team that entered the night 8-20 when the opponent starts a lefty. Billy Burns’ sacrifice fly delivered the first run in the second and Valencia’s homer to left-center in the third made it 2-0. After Luis Valbuena’s homer brought Houston within 2-1, the A’s stretched their lead in the fifth on Josh Phegley’s RBI double.
In the field
The A’s turned in an errorless game.
A crowd of 18,908 was on hand.
The A’s go from facing one 13-game winner Friday to another Saturday against Collin McHugh (13-5, 4.27). For Oakland, Jesse Chavez (5-11, 3.88) will try to steer things back in the right direction. He’s posted a 6.23 ERA over his last seven starts. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.