Gray is a force even without his best stuff

Gray is a force even without his best stuff

ANAHEIM -- Sonny Gray wasn't even at his best Wednesday night, or so he'll say. Even catcher Stephen Vogt acknowledged as much. Yet the A's right-hander was still dominant in a 9-2 victory over the Angels.

He always is, it seems.

"He was great," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He's basically pitched, for the most part, the same game every time this year. Gets a strikeout when he needs a strikeout, gets a ball on the ground when he needs a ball on the ground. His competitiveness shows up every night. Had a pretty significant headache, too."

Gray attributes the headache to possible dehydration -- not that he let it affect him as he limited the Angels to just one run and two hits over seven innings, fanning seven and walking two to lower his ERA through four starts to 1.91. In three of them, he's allowed one run or fewer.

The Angels were on the verge of scoring several in the third inning, loading the bases with one out for Albert Pujols. But Gray, clinging to a devastating slider on this night, threw one in the dirt to get Pujols swinging for strike three, and he spotted a fastball to David Freese for a popup.

Gray escapes jam

"That was Sonny in a nutshell," said Vogt. "Gets into trouble a little bit and then he just got better. For him to be able to make the pitches he did in that moment, that's why he is who he is.

"Those kind of moments happen and he shows up and does what Sonny does best. He was outstanding tonight. Didn't have his best stuff, I'll be honest. But when Sonny doesn't have his best stuff, he makes pitches. He was locating better tonight and I think that's what really helped him."

Added Melvin: "That's the key to the game right there at that time, getting out of that. That's where the competitiveness shows up and he kicks in another gear and makes pitches when he has to, and on some pretty tough customers."

From that point on, Gray didn't allow another baserunner, retiring each of his final 14 batters before finishing at 95 pitches and handing the bullpen an eight-run lead.

"After the third inning," said Gray, "I felt I started mixing my pitches a lot better, a lot better sequences. I stepped back and talked to Vogty and we thought maybe I was throwing too many fastballs early."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.