Gray's belated debut is worth the wait

Gray's belated debut is worth the wait

OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray's season debut, though delayed by two days, didn't disappoint. The right-hander was in tip-top form Wednesday for seven innings of one-run ball against the White Sox, making the wait well worth it.

"Sonny was Sonny," manager Bob Melvin said after the A's 2-1 victory, their first win of the season. "We've seen him pitch that type of game often."

Except Gray didn't even feel like himself for much of the night, clinging to his offspeed pitches more than usual after struggling early with his fastball, partly because he was still lacking in strength two days after being hit with a flu bug that robbed him of his third consecutive Opening Day start.

Not that it mattered.

"I asked him, 'How are you feeling?'" White Sox catcher Alex Avila said. "He said, 'Not too good.' It didn't seem that way."

"Location was a little off," Gray said, "so I was trying to make the ball move as much as possible."

That just so happens to be what he does best. Gray issued four walks, but he also struck out five and stranded just as many runners en route to picking up his first win, which was supported by an encouraging showing by the defense and bullpen.

The final result was a one-run victory. Those proved seemingly elusive last season and again in the first two games of the 2016 season, both ending in one-run losses.

That Gray was on the mound for it wasn't so much of a surprise.

"Especially when we lost a couple of tough ones, I think he gets even more inspired to be the guy to go out there and get deep in the game and give us a chance to win," Melvin said. "He did."

"If we want to be as good as we think we can be, we need to start winning these type of games, and tonight was a step in that direction," Gray said.

Right-hander Ryan Madson, who notched the save following a scoreless eighth from John Axford, offered rave reviews of his first experience from a front-row seat to the Sonny Gray show.

"He's so polished, it's crazy," Madson said. "He reminds me of a right-handed Cliff Lee, for the way he pounds the zone where he's just real aggressive in the strike zone throughout the whole game, and that's tough to do as a starter. It was really fun to watch."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.