1. Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics: After the A’s predictably traded away Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist, you might think their fans have little to look forward to for the remainder of the season. Guess again.
The A's don't have much to play for, but there are worse things than getting to watch Sonny Gray every fifth or sixth day.— Rick Gold (@rickgoldjr9) July 29, 2015
Pitching in Chavez Ravine against the Dodgers, Gray demonstrated the reason why. He threw his second shutout of the month and the fourth of his brief career, lowering his ERA to an AL-leading 2.16, and beating the Dodgers 2-0. It also represents the best start Gray has had in his career, via a handy-dandy Game Score of 89, according to Baseball-Reference.com. And now, although he’s just 25 years old, he’s the ace of an A’s staff that has created opportunities for their other young starters of late, with Chris Bassitt and Drew Pomeranz joining Kendall Graveman and veteran swingman Jesse Chavez (with Jesse Hahn on the DL until some point in August). Collectively, that group is fourth in the AL in quality starts. So with Gray showing the way with top turns like this, the A’s might actually have five reasons to watch every five days, albeit one game to look forward to just a little bit more than the others.
2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets: Speaking of brilliant young rotations, credit the Mets’ flamethrower for tossing his best start yet, perfect through the six innings before Will Venable singled to lead off the seventh. Syndergaard wound up striking out nine Padres in eight innings to beat trade-deadline darling James Shields in 4-0 Mets win that was closed out by Clippard, the newly minted Met. Should the Mets make the postseason, it is starts like this that make for an already interesting question: Who’s No. 2 after Jacob deGrom?
3. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles: I’ll admit, I’ve been a Crush fan ever since he helped power the 2012 Orioles team -- that so many analysts kept counting out of the postseason picture -- to the wild card and all the way to a five-game ALDS loss to the Yankees. He did more than his bit then, with a 10-homer September that included hitting seven homers total across six straight games in that season’s last week to help put the O’s over the top.
So he’s done this sort of thing before. And now, having delivered a five-homer streak this past week that was highlighted by Tuesday night’s pair of blasts to beat the Braves, he's showing what a streak hitter can do for a team when he’s on. Many of the O’s are on short time before they potentially scatter to the winds via free agency, but Davis is giving the Orioles cause for hope that they might have a stretch-run kick in them all over again.
4. Curt Casali, Tampa Bay Rays: In his 50th game in the major leagues, the Rays’ rookie catcher homered twice for a second straight night to help beat the Tigers 10-5, putting him in rare company:
Curt Casali has had back-to-back 2-HR games. Only others to do that in first 50 games since 1900: Zeke Bonura, George Scott & Pedro Alvarez— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 29, 2015
5. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees: Lots of people end up looking good when their team scores 21 runs to annihilate the Rangers, but by adding four more hits on Tuesday night, the Yankees’ shortstop has been on a tear since the All-Star break, hitting .395 and slugging .553. His OPS has gone up in every month with the Yankees, and he’s starting to look like the upgrade they expected when they picked him up relatively cheaply in last winter’s three-way deal with the Tigers and D-backs for rotation filler Shane Greene.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.