OAKLAND — A small crowd of scouts milled about the back of the press box before Sonny Gray took the mound on Tuesday night.
Like his current employer, the Oakland Athletics, the talent evaluators from the prospective suitors were waiting to find out if the vintage Gray would show up.
In the A’s 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, it didn’t take the right-hander long to provide his answer.
With two outs in the top of the first, Gray punched out Ryan Braun with an 85-mph slider that darted into the dirt at the last moment.
“I thought he was really good,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s pretty similar to the way he’s pitched the last couple of times out. [He had] good command of his fastball, late movement and a really good breaking ball.”
The strikeout of the Brewers left fielder was the first of seven on the night, tying his season high.
The 26-year-old allowed two runs — one earned — against the Brewers, but if not for some shoddy defending, he might not have allowed any at all.
In the fourth inning, Gray was nearly back in the dugout when Aaron Hill sent a liner up the middle. The drive appeared to be within the reach of Marcus Semien, but the ball eluded his grasp and sailed into center field. A batter latter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hammered a double off the jagged edge in right-center field to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
Two innings later — after the A’s had leveled the score — Gray let himself down, uncorking an errant pickoff throw to first. On the error, Braun raced all the way to third. Chris Carter then drove him in, lining a bullet to third that bounced off the glove of Danny Valencia and into shallow left field.
In the bottom of the seventh, the sluggish offense finally broke through. Highlighted by a go-ahead single from Yonder Alonso, the A’s pushed across three runs. Melvin couldn’t help but chuckle when asked if he cared that all three had been unearned.
“Earned, unearned. It doesn’t matter to me at this point,” Melvin said of his squad, which has scored the fewest runs in the American League. “However we can get some runs across.”