CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – If the Indians were serious about making a run at A’s starting pitcher Sonny Gray at the trade deadline, they might have just played the right-hander out of their price range.
In all seriousness, Gray showed why he may be the most coveted arm still on the market, controllability aside. The right-hander hit 100 pitches in the seventh inning, but when he left the game, Gray had only allowed two hits and a walk.
His combination of fastballs accounted for 17 strikes, 8 called, and just 7 balls in play, but it was Gray’s changeup that kept hitters off-balance. The 27-year old abused Tribe hitters down in the zone, but the Indians bats did not help matters by expanding the zone.
Gray has lived down in the zone all season, and has had tremendous success. Despite his highest number of pitches coming in the lower half of the zone, and even outside of the zone, hitters have struggled to put up much against them.
“He was down with everything, then off of that, the changeup was a really, really good pitch,” Manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve seen him pitch well and tonight he was in command right from the beginning. We were never able to get much going at all, and again, everything was down and off of the fastball in the same location was that fading changeup.”
Cookie down the hatch
Carlos Carrasco has been as dependable as any Indians starting pitcher in 2017, but Friday night the righty meandered in and out from looking dominant to looking absent.
The 30-year old retired the first five Athletics before walking the next two, throwing five straight balls at a point in that stretch. That was a slight microcosm of Carrasco’s effectiveness, striking out 10 on the night but allowing six hits, five of them for extra bases.
The worst of it was that four of the five extra base hits came on fastballs essentially down the middle of the plate, while Bruce Maxwell put a nice swing on a curveball low in the zone.
Carrasco surrendered two home runs in the fifth inning on essentially the same pitch. Yonder Alonso and Rajai Davis respectively hit 93 and 93.3 mph fastballs belt-high with 102 and 101.5 mph exit velocities at a 29 degree launch angle. Alonso’s went 410 feet, while Davis’s went 403.
Francona noted that not only do piped fastballs usually not do the trick, they play into one of Oakland’s few strengths this year.
“He gave up the solos. I think on a normal night, or a night where we’re swinging it a little bit, it looks like a lot more a competitive game,” the skipper said. “That’s kind of the way Oakland’s been. They can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Even in this spacious place, they hit the ball out of the ballpark, that’s part of what they do.”
The Athletics are 9th in baseball in both home runs and doubles this season.