Gray sails past A's in best start as a Ranger

Right-hander allows just one hit in seven scoreless innings vs. Oakland

July 14th, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Chris Woodward joked prior to Wednesday night’s series finale against the A’s that hopefully starter Jon Gray could go nine scoreless and save the bullpen some work. 

Gray didn’t go a full nine, but the veteran right-hander only allowed one hit in seven shutout innings against the A’s as Texas pulled out a 5-2 win to take the series. 

“There was a point in the game where I was like, ‘Man, like I really want to go [for] a complete game right here,’” Gray said after the game. “I didn't get the opportunity, I threw too many pitches in the first.”  

Even if it wasn’t a complete game, it was Gray's best performance as a Ranger so far, and it wasn’t particularly close. Seven innings, nine strikeouts and no walks is a line that’s only matched in franchise history by Yu Darvish’s near perfect game in 2013, when he struck out 14 batters with no walks in 8 2/3 innings.

“That was dominant,” said Woodward of Gray's night. “I had to look back and see if anything was even hit hard. He was absolutely dominant. And the cool thing was that he finished dominant, too. We got to the middle innings and they were putting balls in play, but he finished off the night striking guys out again. It was just a really good performance by him.”

Gray said he didn’t feel dialed in during the first inning -- despite striking out two of the first three batters he faced -- but he doubled down on his pitches and began feeling better on the mound as the game went on.

Gray faced the minimum over the first three innings, logging five strikeouts. He would ultimately face just one over the minimum, as the A's could only muster a fourth-inning infield single from Vimael Machín that was just out of reach of Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien.

“I haven’t seen all of Gray’s starts, but that’s probably the best he’s thrown the ball,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “He commanded the fastball down in the bottom of the zone and used the lane off of that for his slider. The slider was a sweeper. We couldn’t get him figured out. Sometimes you gotta give pitchers credit. I think tonight was one of those nights where he really had his best stuff and dominated us for seven innings.”

Gray leaned mainly on his fastball and slider in the start, using them a combined 85 times, compared to just five changeups and five curveballs. For just the second time this season he threw more sliders (46) than four-seamers (39).

Gray also coaxed 16 whiffs (swings-and-misses), all of which came on his slider, which he had a “really good feel for” throughout the game.

“Gray throws 96-97 and he can locate that kind of frisbee slider,” said A’s outfielder Skye Bolt. “His changeup was a little bit off today. He tried a couple of times to a couple of us lefties early in counts it seemed and it just wasn’t going across for him in a positive manner.

“But when you have 96-97 to lean on and a wipeout slider you can locate early in the count for strikes, you’re gonna be successful. It’s hard enough to square up 97. You mix in a plus-plus breaking pitch and you have any sort of doubt in your mind, you’re already done. He’s a great pitcher and he’s gonna continue to be a great pitcher.”

Gray added that it was probably the best he’s felt execution-wise all season, which helped to make the sequencing of his pitches and their effectiveness even better.

“It felt like we didn't waste as many pitches,” Gray said. “I feel like a lot of them were competitive. I think we did a good job of keeping it tight. ... feel like I did my job pretty well. I was really happy about tonight.”