Gray stifles Mariners as A's cruise into postseason
Oakland's pair of four-run rallies aid rookie's five scoreless frames
SEATTLE -- The Mariners sent pitcher after pitcher to the mound to face Oakland's hitters, who swatted them away with a pair of four-run rallies. The A's cruised to an easy 9-0 win over Seattle in their final regular season tune-up before facing Detroit in the American League Division Series.
Eight players collected a hit for Oakland, which will now have four days to rest before hosting Detroit for the first game of the ALDS on Oct. 4. That series will pit the A's against the same foe that knocked them out of the playoffs in five games a year ago.
Sonny Gray pitched five effortless innings and struck out eight batters to drop his ERA down to 2.67 in his 10th start of the season. Manager Bob Melvin had wanted to hold the righty to under 80 pitches, and succeeded by pulling him out after 79.
"I knew that going in I was going to be a little limited; I knew they were going to throw some guys so I was just trying to go out there and go right after guys and be efficient," Gray said. "It was nice to get some runs there early and allow them to do that even more."
The rookie had struggled in day games, posting a 4.84 ERA with the sun out compared to just 1.72 at night. But on an overcast day in Seattle with the Safeco Field roof closed, Gray looked like he could pitch in the snow. He has now won three consecutive decisions for the A's.
"He was phenomenal," catcher Derek Norris said. "Obviously his pitch count was a little high considering they didn't want him to throw as much as he did. But he got the win and his curveball was electric today."
Oakland jumped all over Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez early in the contest, chasing the rookie from the game after just 1 1/3 innings. The A's loaded the bases but couldn't score in the first inning before driving in four runs with just one out in the second.
Norris and Daric Barton led the charge with a pair of walks, and both advanced on Eric Sogard's groundout. Chris Young singled the runners home, and he later scored on Seth Smith's double.
"All I can say is that my timing was off," Ramirez said. "Everything. Fastball, breaking ball, everything. I just felt lost."
Seattle substituted Hector Noesi for the floundering Ramirez, but Smith scored on Brandon Moss' double before the inning came mercifully to an end. Noesi would allow three more runs to score in the fifth. His replacement, Bobby LaFromboise, promptly gave up a single to Barton to score Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick.
The dominant victory was a fitting cap to a month that saw the A's finish with as much momentum as any team in the Majors. Oakland's 19-8 record in September is the second best in baseball, and the A's are the only Major League team with a winning record in every month this year.
"To have a winning month every month means there's no letdown, there was no real significant period where you had big-time concerns," Melvin said. "I don't think I've been on a team that was that consistent over the course of a six-month season so it's really a credit to the players, the coaches that prepare them to play every day and our coaching staff does a great job with them."
The A's haven't had a losing month since last June. The club's 10-month winning streak is the longest in the Majors.