OAKLAND In the first installment of a matchup that figures to play out frequently in the coming years, A's right-hander Sonny Gray struck out Angels center fielder Mike Trout during a two-inning relief appearance July 19.
Tuesday night, Trout, 22, struck back in his first at-bat, hitting a fastball from Gray, 23, off the green façade below the suite windows in center field at O.co Coliseum. Gray then countered in the fifth inning, blowing a high, 94-mph fastball past Trout with runners on first and third and one out.
The latter helped preserve a 1-1 tie, which remained intact until the bottom of the ninth, when Josh Donaldson hit a two-out, bases-loaded single to give the A's a 2-1 walk-off win.
With Texas and Cleveland winning earlier Tuesday, the A's needed a win to move closer to clinching a playoff berth. Their magic number to secure a playoff spot is five and to win the American League West is six.
Alberto Callaspo led off the A's ninth with an opposite-field single off reliever Michael Kohn and was replaced on the basepaths by Jemile Weeks, who tagged up on Stephen Vogt's flyout to deep left. After Kohn walked Jed Lowrie intentionally, Coco Crisp walked in a 10-pitch at-bat after falling behind 0-2.
With the bases loaded, one out and the Angels playing with an extra infielder, Kohn struck out Daric Barton. But after falling behind in the count 0-2, Donaldson lined a fastball to center for his third career walk-off hit, all this season.
Trout, with the first-inning home run, became the first player in major-league history to record 25 homers, 30 stolen bases and 100 walks in one season. After the home run, Gray scattered four singles over the rest of his six-inning outing and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but one of his first eight major-league starts.
Gray was pulled in the seventh for Ryan Cook, who retired the first two batters before loading the bases on a single and two hit batsmen. Jerry Blevins, though, got Angels cleanup man Josh Hamilton to swing through a full-count breaking ball to end the inning.
It continued a rocky late-season stretch for Cook, who has allowed 18 hits over his last 7 2/3 innings and has not had an appearance in which he didn't allow a baserunner since Aug. 14. Blevins, meanwhile, has faced Hamilton 13 times in his career and struck out the Angels slugger in seven of them.
Gray completed six innings on 98 pitches with an assist from right fielder Josh Reddick, who made a diving backhanded catch on Mark Trumbo's line drive leading off the sixth.
Should the A's reach the postseason, it will be interesting to see whether Gray's numbers at home factor into how the rotation is lined up. In five home starts, Gray has a 1.26 ERA and opponents are batting .178 against him.
Notes Manager Bob Melvin said an MRI on Yoenis Cespedes showed tendinitis in the outfielder's right shoulder. He termed that good news it means there's no tear and said the A's will "probably DH (Cespedes) for a bit here, and then when he feels good throwing the ball, get him back in the outfield."
Catcher John Jaso took a significant step toward returning from his concussion, hitting on the field before Tuesday's game and joining the A's for warmups. Melvin said it still is uncertain whether Jaso will play again this season, but his progress is encouraging.
"He's turned a corner in the last four, five days where he feels pretty good," Melvin said.
Tickets for potential A.L. Division Series home games sold out within two hours Tuesday, prompting the A's to open additional seating for those games. A spokesman said the A's would remove the tarps from the third-deck "view level" seating to create over 12,000 more seats. Tarps on "Mount Davis" in center field would not be removed.
The decision was made after the regular-season capacity of 35,067 sold out quickly for all three potential home games, with the first game selling out in 40 minutes. The new capacity would be 48,146. Decisions on whether the tarps remain off for the A.L. Championship Series and World Series would be made if the A's make it that far.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/ bay-area-baseball.