Sonny Gray had a July to remember.
Now 12-3, the righty was responsible for five of those wins in July, finishing the month with a 1.03 ERA while never throwing fewer than 6 2/3 innings over that span.
He'll take the ball Friday, hoping to start August on the same foot when the A's open a three-game set with the Royals at O.co Coliseum. In his last outing against Texas, Gray gave the A's 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball despite walking a career-high-tying four and scattering seven hits -- all of which were hit on the ground.
That's largely thanks to Gray's changeup, which has also come a long way. He threw it for a strike 82 percent of the time against Rangers hitters Saturday.
"When you don't have your best command, you just get everything involved and try to make them put the ball in play," he said.
It's been a different story as of late for Jeremy Guthrie, who's gone 1-2 with a 9.19 ERA in his last three starts.
He earned a victory in his last outing thanks to his offense, which supplied him with seven runs even as he surrendered five, along with 10 hits, over 5 2/3 innings against the Indians. Still, all those runs came in the second inning, and Guthrie settled down for the rest of the game.
"Guthrie came out and did a phenomenal job in the third, fourth, fifth, and even after we got the lead to get two outs in the sixth," said manager Ned Yost. "[That] was huge with the way that our bullpen has been going."
Guthrie is 3-4 with a 4.80 ERA in 10 career appearances (nine starts) against the A's. In 10 road starts this season, the right-hander is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA.
A's: Burns makes big league debut
Speedster Billy Burns made his first big league start Wednesday and went 0-for-4 while batting leadoff and playing center field in the A's 8-1 loss in the series finale in Houston.
That's the same role Coco Crisp plays when in the lineup, but he's back home battling ongoing neck issues, and manager Bob Melvin had no qualms about putting the kid at the top of the order.
"One of the reasons I put him in the leadoff spot is that's where he's comfortable," said Melvin of Oakland's No. 17-ranked prospect. "It's the same thing we did in the spring -- we put him in the leadoff spot, where he's most comfortable -- so we'll let him go out there and do his thing."
The 24-year-old Burns, promoted Monday after the A's learned Craig Gentry had a broken right hand, has spent the majority of his professional career batting leadoff. He did it in all 91 games for Double-A Midland this season, batting .250 with a .333 on-base percentage and 51 stolen bases.
Royals: Hosmer out three to six weeks with fractured hand
The Royals learned late Thursday that first baseman Eric Hosmer has a non-displaced fracture in his right hand.
Hosmer aggravated the hand -- which was hit by a Jon Lester pitch July 20 when Kansas City played the Red Sox in Boston -- with a check-swing in the fourth inning of Thursday's 6-3 win over the Twins. He left the game in the sixth.
After being hit by the pitch July 20, Hosmer remained in that game but didn't start in five of the next six because the hand was bruised and he was unable to grip a bat. He was back in the starting lineup for the three games earlier this week against Minnesota, going 1-for-10.
Hosmer was 0-for-2 with a strikeout before exiting Thursday's game and is batting .267 with 27 doubles, six home runs and 46 RBIs on the season.
His immediate replacement at first base appears to be Billy Butler, who took over for him there Thursday.
• The A's have won five of the last six meetings with the Royals. Dating back to 2011, Oakland has won four straight and six of seven against Kansas City at O.co Coliseum.
• Crisp is receiving treatment in the Bay Area and is not expected to play in Friday's game, Melvin said.
• Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie have had success against Guthrie. Reddick is 6-for-19 (.316) with two doubles and a triple. Lowrie is 4-for-9 (.444) with a double.
• Raul Ibanez is the only Royals hitter to have faced Gray. In five career at-bats he has one hit.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.