Gray regroups to pick up first win of season

Gray regroups to pick up first win of season

OAKLAND -- The good Sonny Gray showed up at the Coliseum on Thursday evening, albeit a bit tardy. And there's plenty reason to believe he's not going anywhere.

The A's starter, minus a frightful first inning, was tremendous. He racked up eight strikeouts over six solid innings against the Red Sox to earn his first win since July 26 last season, a commanding 8-3 decision in the series opener.

Making the 100th start of his big league career, Gray pitched like he has for most of it -- fooling hitters with exceptional movement and command of his breaking ball. He even got a handful of swings and misses on his changeup.

"When he's punching guys out, that's the sign that Sonny is Sonny," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "He's an ace. That's what he did tonight. It's good to see him feeling good and feeling healthy and back to having his stuff be pretty electric."

Gray, who began the season on the disabled list with a lat strain, fumbled his way through the opening inning, needing 31 pitches to get through the two-run marathon. But his teammates responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning, "and that was really the kick I needed to try to put up some zeros from there," Gray said.

The righty faced the minimum in each of his next two innings, and after giving up a leadoff homer to Mitch Moreland in the fourth -- Moreland's fourth off him -- Gray gained his groove again, fanning six of his final 10 batters, none of which got a hit.

Dating back to last season, which was interrupted by two DL stints, Gray had not totaled more than four strikeouts in any of his previous six outings.

"My last start, I really struggled putting guys away, and that's something that's kind of been a focus for a while now," he said. "I feel like my stuff is getting better, and now just putting together a whole start is something I'm going to have to do, but I feel like my stuff is the best it's been in I can't remember when."

Just two years ago, Gray was an American League Cy Young Award finalist, making a name for himself as one of the league's best. Then 2016 arrived and Gray came away with a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts. Every so often, when he appeared to have found his old form, the question was raised: Is Sonny back?

On Thursday, it was asked again.

"Everybody's going to have a tough year, and there were injuries involved in it," manager Bob Melvin said. "But the stuff is always there, and he's quite the competitor. So I don't fall into that and say he's not himself anymore. One year is not going to get me off who I think he is."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.