(OAKLAND) -- Facing a knuckleballer is a never a fun task, especially when a team is coming off three straight annoying losses to a postseason rival. But little seems to shake the Oakland Athletics these days: they just stay loose and ready to pounce.
Sonny Gray threw seven strong innings, and the A's scored four runs off R.A. Dickey on Thursday night on their way to a 4-1 win that put momentum back in Oakland's corner after the three straight road defeats in Detroit earlier this week.
Now, the A's can focus on just winning, something they have been doing more than any other MLB team since the start of the 2012 season. Oakland's 52-33 record still is the best mark in the majors this year, but the A's have a mere 3.5-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West division race right now—with 77 games left on the schedule.
It was good for the Oakland organization to see Gray get back in a groove, as this was his first start since May 22 where he surrendered only one run: in his six starts in between, the A's young ace had given up a whopping 22 runs, seeing his ERA balloon from 1.99 to 3.20 in the process.
Another positive? Sean Doolittle had an incident-free ninth inning, after two consecutive blown saves. The lefty struck out two batters in a perfect 1-2-3 inning.
Today, Oakland faces Toronto righty Marcus Stroman (4-2, 4.01) and counters with lefty Tommy Milone (6-3, 3.79). The Blue Jays hurler has been a strong addition to their rotation, posting a 2.48 ERA as a starter, while the A's like their chances with their guy: Milone is 6-0 with a 2.87 ERA over his last ten starts since making some minor adjustments on the mound.
Thursday night's loss dropped Toronto (47-40) into a virtual tie for first place in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles (46-39), so it will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays react to that development. The New York Yankees (42-42) are 3.5 games behind in third place, by the way.
Meanwhile, the A's just want to keep doing what they've been doing all year: winning.
Game time is 1:05 p.m. today for the Fourth of July tilt, which surprisingly doesn't feature any kind of giveaway for the fans. Nevertheless, Oakland is expecting a near sellout today at the O.co Coliseum with a 68-degree day of cool perfect on tap for American's favorite pastime on America's 238th birthday.