Gray's dominance leaves Angels baffled

Gray's dominance leaves Angels baffled

ANAHEIM -- It takes a special kind of dominance, and Sonny Gray has it, to get Albert Pujols wishing you'd have a bad day.

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It takes a special kind of dominance, a Major-League-leading-ERA kind of dominance, to chew Mike Trout up and spit him out at-bat after at-bat, and that's what Gray did Sunday in beating the Angels for a third time in three starts against them this season. He allowed just one unearned run in 7 2/3 sharp innings in the A's 8-1 win, lowering his ERA to 1.60 and leapfrogging Gerrit Cole for the best mark in the bigs.

"Guys like him and Felix [Hernandez], you have to pray they have a bad game," said Pujols, hitter of 10 home runs in his previous 15 games, and 537 in his Hall-of-Fame career.

Gray has had maybe -- maybe -- one of those this season, and certainly none against the Angels. And beating the Angels, of course, means going through two of the best.

"I'm not gonna go into how we pitch a particular guy," manager Bob Melvin said, "but [Gray's] good against just about anybody."

Pujols -- who basically no one can get out these days -- happened to be the only person to do much of anything against Gray on Sunday (and even he had .105 career average against Gray heading into the game). Gray could only laugh at Pujols' two hard hits Sunday, though, and chalk them up to the fact that "He's one of the best hitters ever, man."

That's one of the best hitters ever giving Gray some pretty high praise, then, by putting him in King Felix's class. And you can see why he deserves that praise in how he's handled the best player in the game right now.

Trout went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Gray on Sunday, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player's latest empty effort against the Oakland ace. Trout doesn't have a hit against Gray this season -- he's 0-for-9 with four strikeouts and has struck out at least once in each of his three games against Gray.

Why has he been so successful pitching to Trout? Gray had to pause and think about that, go back over the at-bats in his head. Eventually, he came up with, "I hit my spots pretty well with my heater. That's pretty effective."

An understatement, really. Gray's catcher, Stephen Vogt, had an even simpler answer.

"Uh, because Sonny's good," Vogt said.

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. Hands down. He's an ace."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.