Oakland A's top pitching prospect Sonny Gray set a new professional career high with 11 strikeouts in his seven-inning, three-run performance Tuesday night for Triple-A Sacramento.
“It was probably the best I felt all year,” Gray said. “And I was probably two or three pitches away from not allowing them to score. But overall I think I felt really good out there tonight.”
Gray was dinked-and-dunked for a pair of runs in the first three innings – one was earned. In the fifth, Kevin Mattison hit the first home run off Gray since last August when Gray was with Double-A Midland.
Gray didn’t yield any walks and was efficient despite his high strikeout totals. The right-hander threw 95 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. He changed speeds on his fastball well and was able to throw his signature curveball for strikes as well as bounce it when he needed to.
“Tonight was probably the best my curveball’s been all year,” the A’s first-round pick from 2011 said. "It was probably the reason why I was able to strike so many people out."
The Vanderbilt alum started the game throwing his four-seem fastball from 94-96 MPH on Raley Field’s radar gun, while mixing in two-seam offerings that came in at 91 and 92. As the game wore on, Gray mixed in his changeup that came in around 84.
New Orleans scored in the first inning after Mattison led off the game by nubbing a double down the right field line off the end of the bat and moved to third on a passed ball. He scored when Gil Velazquez grounded out to first, making the run unearned. Gray went on to finish the inning with a pair of strikeouts on curveballs.
Velazquez also drove-in the Zephyrs’ second run of the night when he singled in the third after Gorkys Hernandez doubled to lead off the inning. The two-out hit was a rarity for Gray’s opponents this year. Coming into Tuesday’s game, hitters were .191 against Gray with runners in scoring position.
Gray didn’t get the win, however, as the River Cats fell, 4-3, in 10 innings. After the game, Gray’s ERA was lowered to 2.49, tied for fifth-best in the Pacific Coast League.
But while Tuesday’s 11 strikeouts were a professional career high, Gray said he struck out 16 hitters in a game in college.