Gray Loses Pitcher's Duel But His Trade Value Surely Gets a Boost

OAKLAND - Sonny Gray doesn't focus in much on the opposing pitcher during his starts, preferring to stay in his own little bubble inside the A's dugout.

Yet even Gray took notice of the gem being spun Friday night by Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who came within three outs of no-hitting the A's.

"You're going to be on (the losing) end of some games," Gray said, "and hopefully over the course of the season you can be on the other end."

Foltynewicz was commanding the spotlight at the Coliseum in Atlanta's 3-1 victory, but there's no doubt that Gray's work registered with front offices all around the majors.

The calendar is turning to July and - surprise! - Gray's name is smack-dab in the middle of trade rumors involving several teams. It's become a summertime tradition for A's fans. And the right-hander's performance Friday could have only enhanced his value in the eyes of contenders looking for starting pitching.

Friday's outing was Gray at his stingy best, as he fired eight innings of two-hit ball at the Braves.

"He was unconscious tonight," A's catcher Bruce Maxwell said. "Everything was working with him. He wasn't missing spots. … He really was spectacular tonight."

In a June 20 outing at the Coliseum against Houston, Gray's night was torpedoed by a five-run first. He was down after that game, searching for answers and talking of a need for a different mental approach on the mound. Since then, he's pitched twice, combining for 15 innings and holding opponents to two earned runs with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

It was a fastball-heavy arsenal Gray threw at the Braves on Friday. He got some quick outs, kept his pitch count under control and set his season high in innings pitched.

Will he remain an Athletic beyond the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline?

The Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees are among the teams to be linked to Gray. Oakland has a recent history of swinging deals with the Astros, Cubs and Dodgers, and the Red Sox and Yankees are fighting each other atop the American League East, which could spawn a race between the longtime rivals to beef up their respective rotations.

You can include Friday's opponent in the mix as well, as the Braves reportedly are on the lookout for controllable starting pitchers.

The scouts watching Gray on Friday night couldn't have been disappointed, even as Foltynewicz was mowing through hitters and trying to throw the first no-hitter against Oakland since four Baltimore pitchers combined on one July 13, 1991. The A's streak of avoiding no-no's is the longest active one in the majors.

Foltynewicz began the bottom of the ninth by engaging Matt Olson in a nine-pitch battle that ended with Olson driving a home run to right to break up the no-hit bid. Braves manager Brian Snitker emerged from the dugout to come get Foltynewicz, who left to a nice standing ovation.

"At the end of the day it's 3-2 and I've got to come at you with the fastball and he's ready for it," Foltynewicz said. "The fourth time through the lineup it gets a little tougher. They start seeing you a little better. You've just got to tip your hat to him. He put the bat on the ball and he put it out of the park."

The right-hander's effort won Gray's respect from the opposing dugout.

"I don't really focus on that but obviously he had really really good stuff tonight," Gray said. "… He was just a little bit better tonight."

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