OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Taking the mound with the lead in the second inning after a rough start to the game was just what Sonny Gray needed to get back on track.
Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis hit first-inning homers to spoil Hector Velazquez’s major league debut and Gray took it from there to get his first win of the season for the Oakland Athletics, 8-3 over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
“That really kind of got me going and gave me the kick I needed to really try to focus down and put up some zeroes,” Gray said. “The offense really bailed me out early tonight. That was huge.”
Gray (1-1) allowed two runs in a 31-pitch first inning in his 100th career start before settling down. Relying heavily on sharp breaking pitches, Gray gave up just one more run the rest of the way, while striking out eight in six innings to give him wins against all 14 other AL teams in his career.
“When he’s punching guys out, that’s the sign that Sonny is Sonny,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “He’s an ace and aces go out there and punch people out. That’s what he did tonight.”
Chad Pinder added a homer in the fourth inning against Velazquez (0-1), who had a rough first start after spending his first seven years as a pro in the Mexican League.
Staked to a 2-0 lead before taking the mound in his major league debut, the 28-year-old Velazquez fell behind just four batters into the game when he allowed a two-run homer to Lowrie and a solo shot to Davis for Oakland’s first back-to-back homers of the season.
“I thought there might be a little bit better command in the strike zone,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “There were some pitches that stayed up in the middle of the plate that they made him pay for. First time out for him, not making any excuses. This is not a 21-year-old coming up making his debut. It was just more the command within the strike zone.”
After Boston tied the game in the fourth on a solo shot by Mitch Moreland, the A’s went back ahead in the bottom half when Trevor Plouffe hit an RBI double and Pinder followed with a two-run homer on the next pitch to make it 6-3.
Red Sox: LHP David Price (elbow) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (knee) will begin rehab assignments at Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. Price is expected to throw 85 to 90 pitches and could be activated from the DL next week.
“Tomorrow is a big day for him in seeing how he comes out, the number of pitches thrown,” Farrell said.
Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso sat out after being removed from the game Wednesday in Seattle with a sore left knee. He had an MRI on Thursday that showed no structural damage and will likely miss at least a couple of days. … RHP Daniel Mengden (foot) allowed two runs in six innings and RHP John Axford (shoulder) pitched one scoreless innings in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Nashville.
CAUGHT ON BASES
A’s leadoff hitter Rajai Davis had a rough night on the bases. He was caught stealing second after leading off the game with a single and then was thrown out at third trying for a triple in the third. Davis beat the throw from center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and was initially called safe. But his foot came off the base momentarily on the slide and he was tagged by Deven Marrero. The play was overturned on replay.
Home plate umpire Marty Foster took a hard foul ball off the mask in the third inning that left him stumbling before Boston catcher Christian Vazquez steadied him. After being checked by the trainer, Foster stayed in the game.
The attendance of 12,016 was the smallest for a Red Sox game in Oakland since the A’s drew 8,221 for a game on May 3, 1999.
Boston’s Chris Sale (4-2) goes for his eighth straight double-digit strikeout game in the second game of the series. Sale already has one streak of eight straight double-digit strikeout games in 2015 for the White Sox. The only other player with at least 10 strikeouts in eight straight starts was Pedro Martinez for Boston in 1999. Kendall Graveman (2-2) starts for the A’s.
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