Gray, A's have all the answers vs. Angels
ANAHEIM -- Sonny Gray was in command as usual Sunday afternoon, holding down the Angels' offense for 7 2/3 innings as the A's avoided a sweep in Anaheim with an 8-1 win. Gray lowered his ERA to a Major League-leading 1.60 -- passing the Pirates' Gerrit Cole -- after allowing just one unearned run on five hits and striking out nine.
Even Gray couldn't stop Albert Pujols -- who ripped two more hits, including an RBI single in the fourth inning that produced the Angels' lone run -- but he contained most everyone else.
"He had a little harder slider than we've seen, one that was going down, too -- usually his harder slider goes lateral," manager Bob Melvin said. "What we've seen this year, more than really in the past, is the ability to throw strikes whenever he wants to with all his pitches. As good as he is, he continues to get better."
Starter Matt Shoemaker wasn't bad for the Angels, but shoddy play by his defense helped the A's to two of the four runs they scored off him in his 5 2/3 innings.
Oakland made it easy on its ace, anyway, extending its lead from one to four runs in the sixth inning and turning the game into a blowout with three more in the seventh. The A's offense produced 12 hits, with Ben Zobrist (3-for-4, three runs) and Eric Sogard (2-for-4, three RBIs) leading the way.
"This is a guy we need," Melvin said of Zobrist. "Get him to square a couple of balls up and get him going. He's got a track record of being a heck of a hitter. … It looks like he's rounding into shape."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Two outs, three runs: With two outs and Zobrist on second in the sixth inning, the A's strung together four straight two-out hits to turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 lead. First, Max Muncy plated Zobrist with a long double to left-center field that knocked Shoemaker out of the game. Sogard, Sam Fuld and Billy Burns followed with singles off reliever Jose Alvarez, with Burns' pushing Oakland's lead to four.
"That one inning, we got two-out hit after two-out hit after two-out hit, which is huge," Gray said. "It allowed me to go out and attack a lot more."
Bad defense: The Angels made one error in their first 11 June games. But they tripled that total in the second inning with two errors for a gift A's run. Shoemaker threw consecutive double-play grounders, and the Angels got one out from them, thanks to an error by second baseman Johnny Giavotella, and a transfer bobble by shortstop Erick Aybar that wasn't an official error. The run came home when catcher Chris Iannetta couldn't cleanly field Sogard's two-out bunt for the inning's second error. The Angels finished with three errors in the game, and it could've easily been four, but Ben Zobrist's seventh-inning shot to third was scored a double.
"We let some things get away from us," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I thought Shoe did a good job of minimizing it early." More >
Burns burns: Burns did his job as the A's leadoff man, basically single-handedly creating a run with his speed in the third inning that put his team up 2-0. Burns led off the inning with a squibbler up the first-base line and beat out Iannetta's throw. A few pitches later, he stole second. Then, on Josh Reddick's bloop single over Aybar's head at shortstop, Burns had to start back toward second and hold up to see if the ball would be caught. When it wasn't, he still scored easily.
"First of all, he doesn't understand anything when you talk to him out there. And I said, 'I'm gonna save you some pitches, all right?' And he goes, 'Oh, yeah yeah yeah.' And I pointed to the bullpen, and he was like, 'What are you doing?' So he didn't hear me... looked like he was trying to block my hand when I put my hand up." -- Melvin, on taking Gray out with two outs in the eighth inning
"We just pushed Matt [Shoemaker] against the wall too much. We didn't support him." -- Scioscia on his team's lack of defense and offense Sunday
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Alvarez came into the sixth inning with a .141 opponents batting average, best on his team, and promptly gave up three consecutive singles to two lefties and one switch-hitter.
Fuld was hit on his right hand by a pitch in the seventh inning Sunday and looked to be in some pain, but he was able to stay in the game and sounded optimistic after Oakland's 8-1 win. He said that he doesn't anticipate having to miss time, pending how he feels on Monday.
"I feel good, actually," Fuld said after the game. "It was kind of scary at the time."
A's: Jesse Hahn starts for the A's the first of four games against the Padres -- two on the road followed by two at home -- in San Diego on Monday at 7:10 p.m. PT. Hahn pitched for the Padres in 2014, going 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA -- and 2-for-22 batting, which he'll be doing for the first time in 2015.
Angels: Right-hander Jered Weaver (4-6, 4.61) will be on the mound Monday night at 7:05 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium as they open a two-game series against the D-backs. Weaver is 16-5 with a 2.68 ERA in 31 career interleague starts, including 1-0 vs. Arizona.
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