Baseball / Sports

Sonny Gray pitches MLB-best A's past Mariners

SEATTLE -- A tired A's team found enough left in the tank to pull out a 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners in their series finale Sunday, getting to the All-Star break with a Major League-best 59-36 record.

A little gassed at the end of playing on 17 consecutive days, the A's rallied behind 10-game winner Sonny Gray, who held the Mariners to one unearned first-inning run.

Talking before the game, manager Bob Melvin said the club had not been at top form of late, but the A's had nothing to complain about, coming in to the All-Star break with a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West while being chased by the hottest team in the game, the Los Angeles Angels, who'd won 18 of their last 22.

"When you put it into perspective," Melvin said, "overall the numbers suggest we've had a pretty good first half."

Oakland has won more games (59) before the break than any team in franchise history. The A's offense leads the Majors in walks, is second in runs scored and has the fourth-fewest strikeouts. Oakland's pitching has allowed one run or less is seven of its last 11 games and in 27 of 95 games overall.

The offensive output and the pitching stinginess has led to the A's having a run differential of 145, the fourth-best performance by a Major League team in that category at the All-Star break dating back to 1940. The previous best for any A's club was plus-95 in 1973.

After beating the Mariners, the A's scattered for the All-Star break, although seven boarded a chartered jet and flew to Minneapolis for the game, which will be Tuesday. The seven A's All-Stars includes pitchers Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija and Sean Doolittle, catcher Derek Norris, first baseman Brandon Moss, third baseman Josh Donaldson and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.

While the rest of the club gets the full four days off, Melvin will be watching the game and Monday's Home Run Derby in particular, with a bit of cautious dread. He doesn't want to see either A's Derby entrant, defending champ Cespedes or Donaldson, get hurt or fatigued trying to jack the ball out of Target Field.

"I will follow it," Melvin said. "It makes you a little nervous. I feel good for the guys. I hope they all come back in one piece."

Gray (10-3) closed the first half with a charge, allowing three runs in three starts, all wins. He wouldn't have given up a run at all Sunday except for his error on a pickoff throw that set up a run-scoring grounder by Robinson Cano in the first inning.

He had one rough patch after that, pitching out of a first-and-third, none-out jam in the fourth.

It wasn't until the fifth that the A's offense rallied behind him. Jed Lowrie doubled, Andy Parrino walked and with two out, Craig Gentry and John Jaso delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles. Moss added his 21st homer in the sixth to complete the scoring.

Gray lasted until there were two out in the eighth when, with first base open, he walked Cano intentionally. Sean Doolittle came out of the bullpen to finish up.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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