OAKLAND, Calif. — Big-league hitters feast on mistakes.
Oakland Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray was reminded of that fact when he made his season debut Tuesday in a 9-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Gray had a mid-90s fastball, a sharp curve and solid overall stuff after spending the first month of the season on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. He allowed only five hits, but three were home runs.
“I thought he was outstanding,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said before Oakland’s stunning 6-5, walk-off win Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers. “He made three mistakes and they all got whacked. He did a lot of good things in that first start. He showed a lot of poise. His curveball was as good as I’ve seen it in a couple years, and obviously the life on the fastball and the velocity was great. Threw some really good changeups as well. He really looked good.”
Gray makes his second start of the season Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers and left-hander Daniel Norris in the finale of a three-game series, which is knotted 1-1, at the Oakland Coliseum.
Vogt said he expects to see a strong outing, minus the killer mistakes, from Gray, who will start at the Coliseum for the first time since Aug. 6 last season against the Chicago Cubs.
“I think he learned from those few mistakes,” Vogt said. “We talked about them right afterwards. I think he’s going to be right back at it tomorrow and be great again.”
Norris (2-2, 4.00 ERA) is coming off a strong outing Monday in a 7-1 victory against Cleveland at Comerica Park. He allowed one run on five hits over six innings with a season-high eight strikeouts and four walks.
Norris said he made a slight mechanical adjustment the day before his last start and got into a good rhythm against Cleveland.
“I would say that kind of has something to do with it’s early in the season,” Norris said Friday. “Sometimes, even though we have all spring training and you’re always working, sometimes you might be missing on one thing and then once it clicks, you’re like, ‘Oh, I forgot about that,’ and then you try to stick with that. I hate the term searching, but I was kind of looking for that one thing and I kind of found it last game.”
Norris used an electric fastball and nasty slider to throttle Cleveland, but struggled to throw strikes at times, which forced him to pitch out of jams.
“You’d still like to see him throw more strikes, get ahead of hitters, and when he’s ahead of hitters, not lose the hitters,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Monday’s game. “But he’s got raw stuff, and that stuff can get him through it.”
Norris makes his first career appearance against the Athletics and first at the Coliseum. So far, life on the road has been good for Norris. He’s 7-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 career appearances (17 starts) on the road. He began his career with a streak of 16 road starts without a loss before an 8-1 setback at Tampa Bay on April 20.
Gray is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three career regular-season starts against the Tigers.
The A’s have gone 3-9 in their past 12 games, but should be riding high after rallying to score twice in the bottom of the ninth on shortstop Adam Rosales’ two-out, two-run, walk-off single Saturday. It was Oakland’s first walk-off win of the season.
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