Gray gains confidence with outing vs. Rangers

A's right-hander throws season-high 106 pitches over six innings of two-run ball

Gray gains confidence with outing vs. Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Until Saturday, having Sonny Gray on the mound at Globe Life Park was a can't-lose scenario for the A's. He had earned the victory in each of the six games he'd started on the road vs. the Rangers over the previous four seasons.

This time, Gray didn't win, but he left the game in a position to do so, before the A's bullpen struggled in a 6-5 loss to the Rangers. Gray made his third start since returning from a back injury he suffered at the beginning of Spring Training. For the A's, the upside in an otherwise disappointing night was Gray's performance -- easily his strongest yet this season.

Gray allowed two earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out three, in six innings Saturday. He threw 106 pitches, the most he has thrown since he was shut down with a lat strain on March 9. In his previous two starts, Gray had allowed five runs in 10 2/3 innings combined.

"His stuff's been good every time out. This time he just had a little better results," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

Gray said he still has plenty of room for improvement as he works his way into midseason form.

"For me, what it's been my last couple of starts, I've been able to get to two strikes quite a bit. I just haven't been able to put people away," Gray said. "That's something that I still have to continue to work on. … I was able to kind of manage through the game a little bit better tonight than I have, but at the same time, I still don't feel really sharp."

Joey Gallo, who led off the third inning with a walk, and Robinson Chirinos, who led off the fifth with a single, were the only two Rangers to score off Gray. He worked out of a jam in the sixth, allowing a double to Nomar Mazara but retiring the next three batters to end his outing on a good note.

"That inning is something me, personally, I'm going to be able to build on," Gray said of the sixth. "A close game, leadoff double and then make some big pitches there when I needed to, get a couple of ground balls and then just try to get [Mike] Napoli out any way possible. That worked well."

For Gray, the 2017 season is still very much a work in progress.

"Just getting in the flow of a baseball game. It's been awhile," Gray said. "After last year and then after missing spring, just getting out there in the fourth and fifth and sixth innings; it's just something that I need to do over and over. "My putaway pitches just aren't really sharp right now. I feel great with my fastball, I feel really great with my changeup. My curveball's been OK, my slider hasn't really been there yet. But it will. It'll be there.

"I've just got to continue to work on it and trust that what we're doing is going to pay off. And it will."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.