Tribe take their swings against A's Gray

( - The Cleveland Indians will try to solve right-hander Sonny Gray when the Oakland Athletics visit Progressive Field Friday night for the opener of a three-game set.

Gray has been downright surgical throughout the season's first six weeks. He has started eight games and turned in eight quality starts and entered Friday with a 4-1 record and 2.17 ERA.

Gray came away with a no-decision on Saturday after giving up three runs on six hits over seven innings of work against Washington. He faced Cleveland on Opening Day, which produced another no-decision despite throwing six shutout innings.

With Gray leading the way, the A's lay claim to the best staff ERA (2.99) in the AL. And over the last seven games, the starters have combined for a 1.17 ERA.

"Starters tend to be close, and they definitely feed off of each other," manager Bob Melvin said.

For Cleveland, Zach McAllister will try to rebound from a recent rough stretch. He has made it to the sixth inning only once in his last four starts and is 0-3 with a 5.75 ERA in that span. Against Tampa Bay his last time out, McAllister was tagged for five runs on eight hits and exited after 4 1/3 innings.

"I felt good overall," McAllister said of the outing. "I just left some balls in the middle and fell behind a few guys, and they were able to put some pretty good swings on it and get some guys on base. And then they did what they do, be aggressive on the basepaths and kind of cause some havoc."

Cleveland dropped two of three at Toronto this week, and that includes Thursday's 4-2 setback. Edwin Encarnacion homered twice for the Blue Jays, while Cleveland's offense was held in check by J.A. Happ just one night after putting 15 runs on the board.

Left fielder Michael Brantley, who left Wednesday's game during the fifth inning with tightness in the middle of his back, was held out of the lineup on Thursday as a precaution. Manager Terry Francona said he expects Brantley to be fine for Friday's series opener.

Meanwhile, Oakland had its six-game winning streak halted by the Chicago White Sox in Wednesday's 4-2 final. Tommy Milone turned in yet another quality start by an A's pitcher, although relievers Fernando Abad and Luke Gregerson gave up three runs in the eighth.

Despite the loss, the A's entered Friday with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the AL West standings. They had Thursday off after wrapping up a 10- game homestand (6-4).

Cleveland took two of three from Oakland in that season-opening series on the west coast.