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Gray pitches Cardinals past his former A's

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Sonny Gray struck out six and didn't walk a batter over six scoreless innings to beat his former club with career win No. 100, and Willson Contreras doubled twice and drove in a run for the St. Louis Cardinals in their 3-1 win against the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.

Nolan Arenado hit an RBI single in the first to stake Gray (2-0) to an early lead against an Oakland team that had won three of four and drew a crowd of 5,508.

With the A's set to play the next three seasons in Sacramento, Gray realized this was likely his last time taking the Coliseum mound. He earned his first career win here on August 15, 2013, against the Astros.

“I’ve made so many starts here and just knowing the whole week that this is probably the last one that you’ll have, probably the last time we’ll ever play here, it was pretty special," he said. “To me, it had a lot more meaning than just a game in the middle of whatever month it is.”

Esteury Ruiz was called up by Oakland shortly before first pitch from Triple-A Las Vegas and hit a pinch homer in the eighth.

Gray — who had been set to be the Cardinals' opening day starter before straining his right hamstring in his second spring outing — surrendered four hits in his impressive first road start of 2024 with his new club.

“It was special for him because this is win No. 100 and to get his first one here and his 100th here, it was pretty cool,” manager Oli Marmol said. “He did a really nice job.”

If Gray continues to do well physically, his pitch count will be increased by 10-15 next time.

Closer Ryan Helsley struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save in a game that lasted 2:19.

A's starter Ross Stripling (0-4) left in the sixth and gave way to Michael Kelly, who immediately gave up an RBI single to Jordan Walker. Stripling has allowed 32 hits over his initial four starts since the A's acquired the right-hander in a trade from the Giants.

Zack Gelof had a pair of hits for the A's, who took two of three from the Nationals at home over the weekend and have won three straight series for the first time since May 31-June 16, 2021, when they had five victorious sets in a row.

These clubs hadn't played in Oakland since 2019 and the A's had won the previous three at home in the interleague matchup.

Longtime San Francisco Giants shortstop and fan favorite Brandon Crawford was back in his native Bay Area in his first season as a backup for the Cardinals.

“I don’t know if it’s a change of scenery that’s what I needed or wanted or anything like that necessarily,” he said in the dugout before the game. “I’m happy ... the role that I’m in here is tough, it’s definitely a new challenge, trying to stay ready to face major league pitching, play good defense at shortstop while only playing every four to seven days. It’s definitely hard.”

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tommy Edman (sprained right wrist) started to take dry swings and was set to hit off a tee Tuesday. ... RHP Kenyan Middleton has started playing catch in his recovery from a flexor strain in his pitching arm.

Athletics: 3B J.D. Davis had an MRI exam for his strained groin that came back showing no structural damage, but he went on the 10-day injured list. Ruiz was in the Oakland clubhouse, took batting practice and was called back up to fill the roster spot shortly before first pitch.

UP NEXT

RHP Lance Lynn (0-0, 2.63 ERA) pitches the middle game of the series for St. Louis opposite LHP JP Sears (1-1, 5.17).

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB