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OAK@TEX: Gray records his first career shutout

ARLINGTON -- Long after Yu Darvish had departed one of the worst outings of his career, Sonny Gray was still holding up his end of what was supposed to be a riveting pitchers' duel.

"He even invented a pitch or two tonight," A's manager Bob Melvin said of his ace.

In the fifth inning, Gray struck out Texas' Alex Rios with one of them. It was a slider.

"I didn't even know you threw that," Melvin told him.

"Well," Gray replied, "today I do."

No matter what he threw -- and on this night, he threw everything, and everything well -- Gray was in control, easily finishing up his first career shutout in a 4-0 series-opening victory over the host Rangers to give the A's sole possession of first place in the American League West.

Oakland's 24-year-old righty scattered just three hits in the complete game, striking out six and walking only one on 108 pitches. It was just the 16th start of his career.

"After the eighth, I felt like telling him, you better get it done under 110," Melvin said, smiling. "But that's probably the wrong thing to tell a guy before he goes out for the ninth inning. Usually he looks at me and has a conversation with me when he's coming in. He didn't even look at me after the eighth because he didn't wanna go there.

"I didn't," Gray said. "I didn't know where we were going to go with that. Normally when I walk in I talk to him, share a laugh, but this time I put my head down. He asked, 'How ya feeling?' I yelled, 'Great,' and kept walking."

Then he kept dealing, needing just nine pitches to get through the 1-2-3 inning and become the first A's starter to shut out the Rangers in Arlington since Dallas Braden did it on four hits on Aug. 28, 2010.

Gray has completed at least six innings in each of his six starts this year, and his 41 innings are third most in the American League. His 1.76 ERA ranks fifth.

"I'm really impressed, and I think he's pretty happy, too," said his catcher, John Jaso. "He's like a Christmas morning kid or something right now."

"Yeah, it's awesome," Gray said. "I think, more than anything, it was a game we really needed to win after losing the last two to Houston and getting swept by these guys at our place last week. It's a pretty great feeling."

Darvish, meanwhile, couldn't even get out of the fourth inning.

The right-hander fell apart against a patient A's lineup, allowing four runs in a career-low 3 1/3 innings on 83 pitches. In doing so, he fell to 1-7 against the A's in nine career starts, and his ERA against them is 4.73 spanning 53 1/3 innings.

Against everyone else, Darvish has a 3.09 ERA.

"Everyone has that one person or team they struggle against, and we just seem to be the team that drew lucky with him," said Josh Reddick, who collected an RBI triple off Darvish in the fourth and finished the night 3-for-4. "You watch him around the rest of the league, and nobody can hit him."

Josh Donaldson got the A's on the board in the third with a two-run single, and Reddick's second triple in the last four games extended Oakland's lead in advance of Daric Barton's sacrifice fly. Reddick has 15 total hits in 35 at-bats (.428) over his last 11 games.

Oakland's right fielder also had some fun on defense, mostly as a spectator.

"What he did was incredible," Reddick said of Gray. "That makes it even more incredible, to do it against a team that's a top competitor in all of baseball. That lineup's so potent, it's unbelievable what he did tonight. He's fooling hitters, the likes of Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder. So he's shutting down a lot of big names over here and, especially on the road, that's not easy to do."

Gray's fastball never stopped moving, and his signature curveball dazzled. Then there was that slider.

"That was new," Jaso said, laughing. "Usually with a shutout, guys are dotting you up. But the ball was coming out of his hand and moving in all different directions.

"That was not fun. Well, it was fun after, but it was scary."

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