Whether they've unlocked a secret to solving Sonny Gray is uncertain, the Los Angeles Angels have turned their fortune around in recent meetings with the right-hander.
Seeking their first back-to-back wins, the visiting Angels hope to extend that success Monday night when they face the ace in the series opener against the Oakland Athletics.
Yunel Escobar had two hits and Mike Trout drove in two runs in Sunday's 3-1 home win over Texas that snapped a two-game losing streak. The Angels (2-4), however, have gotten off to a slow start offensively with just 12 total runs, a .200 batting average and an AL-low eight extra-base hits.
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Normally, that wouldn't bode well heading into a matchup with Gray, who went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA en route to finishing third in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season.
Gray is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA in his last eight home starts, but his only setback was a 9-4 loss to the Angels in September. Since going 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his first eight starts versus Los Angeles, he's given up 12 runs over 11 innings in the last two.
After he was scratched from his opening day start due to food poisoning, Gray (1-0, 1.29 ERA) shined in his 2016 debut by allowing one run and three hits despite walking four over seven innings of Wednesday's 2-1 home win over the Chicago White Sox.
"He's so polished, it's crazy," reliever Ryan Madson told the league's official website. "He reminds me of a right-handed Cliff Lee, for the way he pounds the zone where he's just real aggressive in the strike zone throughout the whole game, and that's tough to do as a starter."
Now Gray will try to lead the A's (4-3) to a fourth straight win after Coco Crisp's solo shot in the 10th inning on Sunday gave them a 2-1 road win and a three-game sweep at Seattle.
Albert Pujols went 5 for 15 versus Gray last season, including a two-run shot in September. Trout was 1 for 14 with five strikeouts and C.J. Cron was hitless in six at-bats.
Pujols and Cron have struggled so far, going a combined 5 for 46 (.109) over the first six games. Pujols, however, has hit .349 with five homers and 16 RBIs in his past 11 against the A's, while Trout has batted .396 with three home runs and 14 runs over his last 14.
The Angels hope to provide some run support for right-hander Nick Tropeano, who was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to replace the injured Andrew Heaney in the rotation.
Tropeano, who went 3-2 with a 3.93 ERA in seven starts last season, has surrendered one run and eight hits while striking out 16 over 12 2-3 innings to earn the win in both outings with Oakland.
"You don't want to see anyone get injured, especially a friend or a teammate," Tropeano said. "I'm here just to contribute, help the team win."
He'll have to be cautious with Stephen Vogt, who has hit .429 with four extra-base hits and six RBIs in his last seven games against the Angels. Marcus Semien, who homered Sunday, is batting .364 with a home run during a six-game hitting streak in this series.
Oakland dropped 11 of 19 meetings last season, including five of nine at home.