Photo by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group
Oakland, CA - It looked like the rain would never stop. The sun broke through around 6 p.m. Opening Day was almost written off due to bad weather that had covered the entire Bay Area. The sold out crowd made their way to wet seats to witness one of the best starts in Oakland A's history.
Sonny Gray wiggled his way out of enough jams to earn a place in the A's history books but he wasn't able to break the pattern of losing the home opener. Oakland was shutout 2-0 by the Cleveland Indians last night. The opening jitters took a toll but the A's defense backed their ace to keep the Indians bats quiet through eight innings.
"A little out of kilter early," said Oakland's manager Bob Melvin. "But he was able to fight through it and still put up zero's."
By the fourth it became a pattern unbroken. Gray walked Carlos Santana to start the frame, followed by Michael Brantley's doubled. With two outs and two on, Gray got out of the inning unscathed. He struck out Ryan Raburn and Asdrubal Cabrera reached first on a fielder's choice. Santana was out at home and Brantley went to third. David Murphy grounded out to end the frame.
"I was able to settle down and get out of some big jams," Gray said. "Which was the story of the night, really!" As a pitcher you always want to put yourself in tough situations and figure a way to get out of them."
Despite Oakland's bats being quiet tonight, Gray tossed six, walked three and struck out four. He joins Tim Hudson (2003) as the only pitchers in Oakland history to not allow a run in a Opening Day start. Gray set the bar high, until Jim Johnson lost his command on the mound.
"It's unfortunate," said Johnson. "You look at how guys battled, Sonny especially. That was one of the most impressive performances I've ever seen. That guy wiggled better than anybody today."
Top of the sixth, Cabrera hit a line drive to Gray that bounced off his leg. He threw to catcher John Jaso at home plate in time to tag Brantley out. A crew chief asked for the instant replay to make sure Jaso did not block the plate. The ruling was in favor of the A's and Gray struck out Murphy to end the threat.
The bullpen took over in the seventh. In his pitching debut, Luke Gregerson retired the side and Sean Doolittle keep Cleveland scoreless in the eighth. It was Johnson's debut that left the sell out crowd fuming. The Indians scored two runs in the ninth to seal their victory.
I would've booed me too," explained Johnson. "I sucked today, I'll admit it. That's fine I deserved it. I expect that. The next time they're probably going to be cheering."
He issued a free pass to Cabrera, Murphy hit a single and Yan Gomes was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, both Nyjer Morgan and Nick Swisher knocked in runs for the 2-0 lead. At that point the A's had no luck with two of their key players striking out. Oakland had their chance in the eighth when they had two on with Donaldson at the plate.
"That ball was killed," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "So we caught a break there."
Donaldson's fly ball went 300 feet in the air and landed on top of the wall to fall into play. Had that ball gone behind, he would've cleared the bases for the lead. The bases were loaded with one out. Brandon Moss grounded out to third leaving three stranded.
"I thought it was off the suites," said Donaldson. "I'm not frustrated with [Daric] Barton (who made it third in hesitation on the play). I was more frustrated it didn't get out."
Oakland has tomorrow to try and turn things around in game two of the series. Scott Kazmir will make his debut against his former team. Kazmir signed a two-year $22 million contract as a free agent after going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts with the Indians in 2013.