"It's been a long time and a lot of things have happened," Gray said. "I don't think it's any secret things [haven't gone] as you would hope for the majority of the year. I think after the second inning, it was just a thing, like, 'Stop fighting myself.'"
Gray allowed a two-run double to light-hitting Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole in the second, needed 53 pitches to get through the first two innings and surrendered a loud solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion to begin the third. But much like in his last start against the Twins, when he allowed one run over six innings and became stronger as the game progressed, Gray again grew stronger, holding Toronto scoreless over his final three innings.
"I think he's getting back and certainly has a little bit more confidence getting deeper into games. It's a good sign for us," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Gray posted a 6.16 ERA in 12 starts prior to Saturday, and he hadn't won over that stretch. He said for a while he was fighting himself, but believes something has clicked since the Minnesota start.
"I think mentally I found something there a little bit," Gray said. "Just the mentality to attack. And then today was a little bit more of physical and mental together after the second inning. Like I said, 'Mentally, just stop fighting yourself. Don't try to be too perfect.'
"Even the homer to Encarnacion, he's a big strong guy, and it was a pitch located where I wanted it to be. The last four innings were a big step in the right direction."
The A's could use a resurgence from Gray down the stretch, but his encouraging performance also comes just two weeks before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Gray has long been a coveted asset, both by the A's and by contenders, and he was asked if the speculation's weighed on him recently.
"I don't think so," he said. "I've had enough going on myself to worry about anything on the outside. For me, it's just literally trying to stop fighting myself and figure out a way to get a win to get back to pitching winning baseball."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.