A's Opening Day starter allows six runs; Oakland rallies in ninth for tie
By Jane Lee and Adam McCalvy
PHOENIX -- Carlos Gomez hit a leadoff home run and logged RBIs in each of the first three innings as the Brewers knocked around A's Opening Day starter Sonny Gray on Wednesday at Maryvale Baseball Park. The game ended in a 9-9 tie after Oakland rallied for four runs in the ninth.
Gray was touched for six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in only 2 2/3 innings, but he wasn't the only pitcher roughed up in the early going. Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson pitched five innings and surrendered four runs (one earned) on six hits, including Ike Davis' long two-run home run in the third inning. Those runs and one more came in the third after Brewers second baseman Luis Sardinas was charged with a costly error.
The top five batters in Milwaukee's lineup each had a hit. Gomez went 2-for-4 and raised his average to .435. Jonathan Lucroy was 1-for-3 with an RBI, and he tested his healed right hamstring by scoring from first base on a double. Braun was 3-for-4 and has a five-game hitting streak after beginning the spring 0-for-13. Aramis Ramirez was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Adam Lind was 1-for-4 and is 6-for-11 in his last three games.
"It's no secret that we all can hit," Gomez said. "Ask the pitcher every day if he wants to face us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leadoff launch: Officially, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is still undecided between Gomez and Scooter Gennett in the leadoff spot. But the manager loves the way Gomez can impact the start of a game, and Gomez showed why when he launched the first pitch of Gray's afternoon onto the left-field berm. It was Gomez's third home run of the spring.
In 2014, Gomez batted .418 and slugged .754 with nine home runs when he put the first pitch in play.
Be like Ike: Davis hasn't stopped hitting since returning from a back injury last week. The A's new first baseman followed a Brett Lawrie double with an RBI single in the first, then smashed a two-run homer to dead center in the third -- his first of the spring.
Davis finished 2-for-3 and is batting .520 in 25 at-bats this spring.
Scary situation: Brewers bench candidate Sardinas was shaken up in the second inning while sliding into second base. Sardinas had broken from first base on a Nelson bunt, and appeared to beat a throw from Davis that seemed to strike Sardinas in the face. After a long look from Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright, Sardinas remained in the game and eventually scored a go-ahead run.
Gray day: A's Opening Day starter Gray found trouble from the start, his first pitch to Gomez hit for a long homer to left. The righty then faced eight batters in the second, getting knocked around for four runs, and walked three in the third, ending his forgettable day. Gray, on the hook for six runs total, watched his spring ERA rise to 7.53.
"I think we had some things not go our way, and then me, personally, things just kinda got sped up and couldn't slow down," said Gray. "I started overthrowing and leaving the ball up, and they started to put some good swings on them and it went downhill from there.
"I've got to be better than that, to not let the game speed up and be able to take a deep breath and get back in the moment instead of overthrowing and letting it snowball like it did."
"For me, any time you have to face an ace, that's exciting. That's how I test myself. Like, 'I'm good.' Or, 'No, I stink.' I'm a competitive guy, and when you have a really good game against a guy like that, you go home proud, you know?" -- Gomez, on facing Gray
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gray encountered a Brewers offense on a hot streak. Milwaukee has scored at least nine runs in four of its last five games, including at least a dozen runs three times.
A's rotation candidate Jesse Chavez will be back in camp Thursday, following the birth of his third daughter, to face the Giants in a rare Cactus League affair under the lights at Scottsdale Stadium. The right-hander, who will be opposed by Tim Lincecum, pitched to a combined 4.38 ERA in his first four outings. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT (watch the game on MLB.TV).
Four days after pitching in Minor League camp, Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers will return to Cactus League action when he starts against the Mariners at Maryvale Baseball Park on Thursday. Fiers was scratched from his previously scheduled "A" game start by a bout of right shoulder weakness, but he has bounced back quickly since then and remains on track to be part of Milwaukee's season-opening rotation. He'll work opposite Seattle left-hander Ronnie Elias at 3:05 p.m. CT (listen to an exclusive webcast on brewers.com).
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.