St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray pitches to an Oakland Athletics...

St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray pitches to an Oakland Athletics batter during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 15, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez

OAKLAND, Calif. — Sonny Gray earned his first career win for the Athletics in Oakland on Aug. 15, 2013, against the Astros. Almost 11 years later, the right-hander notched victory No. 100 back in the Coliseum wearing a Cardinals jersey this time facing his former club.

It meant the world to him to win what is likely his last start on this mound, with the A's set to play the next three seasons in Sacramento.

The memories flooded back, like how his son Gunnar was born in the Bay Area and spent his first five years here. And there were the playoff seasons of 2013 and ‘14 during his time with the A’s. They're the team that drafted him in the first round at 18th overall out of Vanderbilt in 2011.

“It's a special place for me,” the 34-year-old Gray said. “Gunnar was raised here for the first five years of his life. We lived here from, what, 2013 to '17. We came to the ballpark here every day and I got to see the best sides of it, I guess. I got to see the sellouts and the winning the divisions and the going to the playoffs and playing in the playoffs here.”

So when Gray mixed his pitches — 22 of his fastballs went for strikes — to toss six scoreless innings and strike out six without walking a batter in the Cardinals’ 3-1 victory Monday night, he couldn’t help but reflect on it all once more.

When his teammates question what a stop in Oakland will be like, Gray insists, “You just don't know it like I know it.”

“It does hold a special part. This is the team that drafted me. This is the team that gave me a shot,” he said. “This is the team that believed in me. This is the fans that helped shape my career. I always enjoy coming back here.”

St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray walks to the dugout after...

St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray walks to the dugout after pitching against the Oakland Athletics during the third inning of a baseball game Monday, April 15, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez

Hearing those “Sell the team!” chants struck him, too. That was hard. He hopes, in time, the A's fans might be able to celebrate along the way in this final year before the club plays the next three seasons in Sacramento ahead of a planned move to Las Vegas for the start of the 2028 campaign.

Gray understands the frustrations, especially given the years he spent in Oakland weren't close to the same as the situation now.

“I was out there pitching and even when I was out there I could hear “Sell! Sell!” It just makes me feel uncomfortable,” he said. “I'm kind of like, ‘Man, I don’t like that.' I do think that the fans probably do feel some type of way possibly but also, too, I would say as crappy as a situation as it is for the fans, maybe just try and enjoy it. It's going to be it, maybe just try to soak it in and enjoy it, just enjoy all the last moments and the last games and everything that you get to see.”

Sure, it's only mid-April and Gray is still on a pitch count after he strained his right hamstring in spring training, but the magnitude of the moment felt greater given his history here.

St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray pitches to an Oakland Athletics...

St. Louis Cardinals' Sonny Gray pitches to an Oakland Athletics batter during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 15, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez

“I kind of knew it going into this week, right, like, 'OK, I'm throwing the first game in Oakland,' you're kind of sitting there like, ‘you know it’s probably going to be my last start here,'" he said. "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. ...

“To me, it had a lot more meaning than just a game in the middle of whatever month it is.”

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