OAKLAND, Calif. — Sonny Gray spent the past few days with Oakland pitching coach Curt Young, making subtle adjustments to his delivery.
Gray won’t reveal exactly what he and Young worked on. Suffice to say, the Athletics’ young staff ace is pleased with the results.
Brandon Moss hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the fifth inning, and Gray bounced back from two sub-par outings to lead Oakland over the Texas Rangers 4-2 Wednesday, giving the Athletics (44-28) the best record in the majors.
“Overall it was a pretty good outing,” said Gray, who had won just two of eight starts before going seven innings against Texas and striking out seven.
“I don’t think there really is a difference other than I was able to make pitches,” he said. “That’s probably it. People sometimes forget that baseball is a pretty hard game and there’s going to be some rough patches that you’re going to go through.”
Gray (7-3) bounced back nicely from his recent rough stretch. The right-hander needed only 31 pitches to get through the first three innings, then struck out Brad Snyder on a high 95 mph fastball to end the fourth with runners at second and third.
Gray also got help from left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who made a leaping catch at the warning track to rob Adrian Beltre of extra bases two batters before Snyder struck out.
His lone mistake came in the fifth when Texas loaded the bases with two outs. Gray walked two and gave up an infield single before Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run single made it 2-2.
“It’s just balance for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He knows his delivery (and) his mechanics pretty well, and Curt’s terrific at pointing out subtle things. There are a couple things he’s been working on.”
Cespedes and Josh Donaldson each had two hits for the A’s. Oakland has won four of five and is a season-high 16 games over .500.
Their record is one game better than cross-bay rival San Francisco.
“Anytime in the season that you can say you have the best record in baseball, it’s satisfying,” Melvin said. “But there’s a lot of baseball yet to be played. At least for the time being it feels good.”
Luke Gregerson pitched the eighth, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his ninth save.
Nick Tepesch (2-3) went five innings for Texas.
Choo drove in both runs for the Rangers.
“We have to get more than five innings out of our starting pitching and we have to have a shutdown inning after we score runs,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Somehow that (Oakland) lineup is always functioning. Somebody is always having a good day.”
Melvin shuffled his lineup and didn’t start center fielder Coco Crisp and second baseman Eric Sogard.
Oakland’s offense didn’t miss a beat.
John Jaso replaced Crisp in the leadoff spot and knocked in the A’s first run with a double in the third. Craig Gentry, who filled in at center field, added two hits and scored a run. Second baseman Alberto Callaspo also had two hits.
That was enough for Gray, who gave up two runs and six hits. He improved to 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 13 career starts against teams from within the A’s division.
“He was keeping us off balance,” said outfielder Alex Rios, who doubled off Gray in the fourth. “He managed his slider well. and his fastball had good velocity. He was locating it well.”
Cespedes scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning. He singled off Tepesch and scored on Moss’ double to right, barely beating the throw home with a headfirst slide.
After Donaldson singled Moss to third, Stephen Vogt hit a short sacrifice fly to left to put Oakland up 4-2.
Tepesch remained winless since May 26. He allowed nine hits over five innings with two walks and one strikeout.
REDS 11, PIRATES 4
PITTSBURGH —Alfredo Simon became the NL’s first 10-game winner and Billy Hamilton had three hits and three RBIs for Cincinnati.
Simon (10-3) allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings and Cincinnati won for the sixth time in seven games.
Brandon Phillips, Skip Schumaker and Zack Cozart each had two of the Reds’ 14 hits in the game, which was delayed 1 hour, 15 minutes by rain in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Schumaker also had three RBIs.
Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco went 2 for 4 and became the second player in Pirates’ history — joining Spencer Adams (1923) — to have a hit in each of his first eight major league games.
Edinson Volquez (4-6) was tagged for eight runs in 2 2-3 innings.
ROYALS 2, TIGERS 1
DETROIT — The Kansas City Royals won their 10th straight game, extending their best streak in 20 years when Jeremy Guthrie and a lucky hop helped them beat the Detroit Tigers 2-1 Wednesday.
The Royals have not won this many games in a row since a run of 14 straight in 1994. They extended their AL Central lead over the Tigers to 1 1/2 games.
Guthrie (4-6) allowed four hits and struck out nine in 6 2-3 innings. Drew Smyly (3-6) nearly matched him, but the Detroit left-hander was hurt by Alex Gordon’s RBI single that deflected off second base in the first and a solo homer by Omar Infante in the fifth.
J.D. Martinez homered for the Tigers in the seventh, but the Kansas City bullpen got the last seven outs, with Greg Holland pitching the ninth for his 21st save in 22 chances.
Kansas City will try for a four-game sweep Thursday.
RED SOX 2, TWINS 1 (10)
BOSTON — Mike Napoli and David Ortiz hit consecutive homers with one out in the 10th inning and Boston rallied to hand Minnesota its fifth straight loss.
Boston was held to one hit — a fifth-inning double by Daniel Nava — before the homers.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 10th on Chris Parmelee’s two-out home run off Koji Uehara (2-1), snpping the closer’s scoreless streak at 21 2-3 innings. But after Dustin Pedroia flied out to begin the Boston 10th, the Red Sox connected against Casey Fien (3-4) to complete a three-game sweep.
YANKEES 7, BLUE JAYS 3
NEW YORK —Brian McCann hit a go-ahead, two-run homer and later added a bases-loaded triple to lead New York over first-place Toronto.
The Yankees beat Mark Buehrle for the ninth straight time and handed the Blue Jays their 15th loss in a row in the Bronx.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (3-0) remained unbeaten in seven starts since making his big league debut this season.
Buehrle (10-4) gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and lost his third straight start overall. He is 1-11 against the Yankees, with his lone win coming in 2004 with the Chicago White Sox.
McCann tied his career high with five RBIs. His third major league triple was his first since 2009 with Atlanta. Toronto’s Jose Bautista had an RBI double for his 1,000th career hit.
DIAMONDBACKS 4, BREWERS 3
PHOENIX — Light-hitting Tony Campana singled home Martin Prado from third base with two outs in the ninth inning to propel Arizona to victory.
Prado doubled with one out to deep left center off Brandon Kintzler (1-3), advanced to third on David Peralta’s groundout, then scored when Campana slapped one up the middle.
Khris Davis hit a three-run homer for the Brewers’ other runs.
Arizona’s Chris Owings was a home run shy of the cycle and was robbed of a fourth hit by a diving stop by first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Brad Ziegler (3-1), who gave up the deciding grand slam in Tuesday night’s 7-5 Milwaukee victory, retired all four batters he faced, three by strikeout, to get the victory.
The Diamondbacks will try to salvage a split of the four-game series Thursday.
PADRES 2, MARINERS 1
SAN DIEGO — Pinch-hitter Tommy Medica singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for San Diego in its first home game since Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died of cancer Monday.
The light-hitting Padres honored Gwynn before the game and then cobbled together just enough offense for their second win in 10 games.
Starters Felix Hernandez and Andrew Cashner pitched well but didn’t get a decision. Hernandez struck out 10 and allowed only three singles in seven innings, with no walks. But he allowed the Padres to tie it at 1 on a wild pitch with two outs in the sixth.
Everth Cabrera started the winning rally by beating out an infield single on a chopper against Charlie Furbush (0-4). Cabrera was sacrificed over by Alexi Amarista and scored on Medica’s liner to center. James Jones throw home was late and off line.
ORIOLES 2, RAYS 0
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kevin Gausman pitched six innings, Steve Pearce’s double snapped a scoreless tie and Nelson Cruz added his major league-leading 22nd home run to help Baltimore beat Tampa Bay.
Pearce homered during a 7-5 victory Tuesday night and put the Orioles ahead this time with a line drive down the right-field line in the fifth.
Alex Cobb (2-5) would have made it through the inning unscathed if second baseman Ben Zobrist hadn’t mishandled Nick Markakis’ grounder for an error.
Gausman (3-1) allowed five hits and struck out five, including Zobrist and James Loney after the Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the first.
The Rays were blanked for an AL-leading 11th time, finishing with five hits and going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
WHITE SOX 7, GIANTS 6
CHICAGO — Jose Abreu hit his 20th homer, a two-run shot, and Adam Dunn added a three-run drive to help Chicago hand San Francisco its fifth straight loss.
White Sox ace Chris Sale (6-1) gave up three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. Ronald Belisario got five outs for his seventh save.
Abreu reached 20 homers in his 58th game, the third-fewest in major league history behind Wally Berger (51) and Mark McGuire (56). Chicago swept the two-game series.
Giants starter Tim Hudson (7-3) allowed seven runs and 12 hits in 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing this season. He entered with a major league-best 1.81 ERA.
NATIONALS 6, ASTROS 5
WASHINGTON — Anthony Rendon homered to spark a three-run seventh inning, and pinch-hitter Nate McLouth came through with a tiebreaking sacrifice fly as Washington rallied past Houston for a two-game sweep.
The Nationals extended their NL East lead to 1 1/2 games over Atlanta and Miami. They open a four-game series against the Braves on Thursday night in Washington.
Ian Desmond hit a key double off Kyle Farnsworth in the seventh. Darin Downs (1-1) took the loss.
Aaron Barrett (3-0) got one out for the win and Rafael Soriano earned his 15th save.
Matt Dominguez drove in two runs for the Astros, who have lost three straight.
PHILLIES 10, BRAVES 5
ATLANTA — Ryan Howard capped a big series by driving in two runs with three hits, and Philadelphia battered Aaron Harang to complete a three-game sweep of Atlanta.
Howard, who homered in the first two games of the series, doubled home a run in a five-run second inning and added an RBI single in the fifth. He had five hits, four walks and six RBIs in the series.
Marlon Byrd drove in three runs with three hits, including a homer. Five players each had three of Philadelphia’s season-high 18 hits.
Evan Gattis hit a two-run homer in the Braves’ four-run first inning off Roberto Hernandez (3-5). Ryan Doumit also homered and hit a two-run single.
Harang (5-6) allowed nine runs, eight earned, and 13 hits. He threw 115 pitches in five innings.
The Phillies have won seven of nine. Atlanta has lost eight of 12.
METS 3, CARDINALS 2
ST. LOUIS — Bartolo Colon worked eight dominant innings in 91-degree heat and keyed the go-ahead rally with his first career extra-base hit, helping New York beat St. Louis to avoid a three-game sweep.
Eric Young Jr. and David Wright each had an RBI in a two-run sixth that put the Mets up by a run. Young added an RBI double in the seventh, aided by Colon’s second sacrifice of the game. A day after dropping their sixth straight series in St. Louis, the Mets ended an eight-game road losing streak dating to June 3.
Matt Carpenter hit his third career leadoff homer for the Cardinals, who lost for the second time in nine games. They had just one runner in scoring position against the 41-year-old Colon (7-5), who retired 13 in a row before Daniel Descalso’s two-out single in the eighth.
Colon surprised Lance Lynn (7-5) with a double to open the sixth. The pitcher had been 0 for 43 at the plate since June 10, 2005, when he singled for the Angels against the Mets. He scored his second career run, and first since 2002 with the Expos, when Young followed with a double.
Colon won his fifth straight decision and needed just 86 pitches. He allowed four hits and walked none.
Left-hander Dana Eveland retired lefty swinging Matt Adams with a runner on for his second career save. The other came in 2005.
The Mets won for the fourth time in 15 games.
CUBS 6, MARLINS 1
MIAMI — Jake Arrieta had a career-high 11 strikeouts in seven innings, and Nate Schierholtz hit a three-run homer to lead Chicago over Miami.
By taking the rubber game of the three-game set, the last-place Cubs won consecutive road series for the first time since June 2013.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit his NL-leading 20th homer in the first but left the game after six innings with a bruised left wrist. Stanton said the injury wasn’t serious, and he expected to be back in the lineup Thursday.
Arrieta (3-1) allowed five hits and one walk, lowering his ERA to 1.98. He also doubled for his first career extra-base hit.
Schierholtz connected off Nathan Eovaldi (4-3) in a four-run sixth. Starlin Castro had a pair of RBI doubles and a single.