(AP) — The Los Angeles Angels have not been able to figure out Sonny Gray since he made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics nearly two years ago.
That’s especially been the case this season, though they’re not the only team he’s managed to shut down.
The major league leader in ERA looks to beat the Angels for the second time this week and fourth time in as many matchups in 2015 as these teams open a three-game series in Oakland on Friday night.
Gray (8-3, 1.60 ERA) will again be matched up with Matt Shoemaker (4-5, 4.85) after beating him in Anaheim on Sunday. Gray allowed an unearned run, five hits and struck out nine with no walks over 7 2-3 innings of an 8-1 victory.
“It’s fun every time I go out there,” Gray said. “It’s still real early, but it’s just nice to go out there and get some innings and put the team in a position to win. I’m just throwing the ball well.”
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA against the Angels (34-33) this season and 5-1 with a 2.11 mark in nine career matchups, including eight starts.
“Every time we’ve faced him, he’s been tough on us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “So we’ll have to hopefully try and figure something out – because in our division, we’re going to face him a bunch of times.”
Gray has posted a 1.04 ERA in going 4-1 in his last five starts, striking out 31 and walking four in 34 2-3 innings.
“My fastball location is better and I’m throwing a lot more strikes,” he said. “… And when you do that, you’re going to win more times than not.”
Gray has been especially tough on Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. They are both 4 for 22 in the matchup, with Trout striking out 10 times but also homering twice. Kole Calhoun is 3 for 24 with nine strikeouts and Chris Iannetta is hitless in 10 at-bats while striking out four times.
“I’m under the impression that he’s doing that to everybody,” Iannetta said. “He’s one of the best in the game, and I don’t think he gets enough notoriety for how good he really is.”
Shoemaker allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings Sunday after going 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his previous three starts. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.91 ERA in three outings against Oakland (29-40) this year.
The Athletics failed in their bid for a season-best fifth straight win Thursday, falling 3-1 to San Diego while being held to five hits. They had 20 hits in a 16-2 victory Wednesday.
“A game like that when you give up a couple runs, you expect to be in a better position,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We just didn’t do enough offensively.”
Los Angeles won for the second time in three contests Thursday, beating Arizona 7-1. Trout went 2 for 4 with an RBI triple and is 12 for 29 (.414) in the last eight games, while Efren Navarro and Carlos Perez drove in two runs apiece.
“We got production independently from what (Kole Calhoun) and Mike and Albert are going to do,” Scioscia told MLB’s official website. “And that’s critical.”
Updated June 18, 2015
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