Sonny Gray is going through the worst stretch of his young career. All things considered, it could be a lot worse.
The 24-year-old right-hander gave up five runs to the Orioles on Saturday, marking the second time in 25 career tries that he has allowed five or more. Heading into Friday's three-game-series opener against the Yankees, Gray has allowed three-plus runs in three straight outings.
For the most part, though, Gray has been remarkably steady for the A's. Eleven of his 13 outings have been quality starts.
"I just think it's the approach we've been able to take into every game," Gray said of the key to his consistency. "We keep it fairly simple. Like [pitching coach] Curt [Young] said last year, 'Don't let a moment get too big.'"
Gray was trained to handle high-pressure environments at Vanderbilt, where he helped the Commodores earn their first College World Series berth in 2011. He's been following the team closely in recent weeks as it earned another trip to Omaha.
"Playing at Vandy, I understand it's a different environment than other colleges, and different than other experiences people have in their lives in getting here," he said. "They build you for success, off the field as well as on the field. It's a place that gets you ready."
David Phelps will face Gray for the Yankees. Phelps, who was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in early May, is also going through a rough patch, allowing 13 runs in his last two starts and going winless in his last four.
Neither Gray nor Phelps saw action when the A's and Yankees met at Yankee Stadium last week, with the A's taking two of three.
Oakland's offense came on strong in the late innings of both victories, losing only the third game, 2-1, against Masahiro Tanaka, who is not scheduled to pitch this weekend.
The A's have won seven of nine meetings against the Yankees since the start of 2013.
"[The A's] do things the right way," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "They pitch extremely well, their defense is good. From an offensive standpoint, they hit the ball out of the ballpark. They run the bases. They make you work as a pitcher. They do a lot of things right."
The Yankees are coming in fresh on the heels of a three-game sweep of the Mariners after Thursday night's 6-3 win.
"We needed this," said Brett Gardner after Thursday's win. "We're feeling pretty good about ourselves, and guys have been throwing the ball well. Our pitching has been great all year. It's going to be a tough weekend in Oakland. Those guys have got a real good team, and we're going to go in there and try to win the first game [Friday] night."
Yankees: Kelley off DL; Huff acquired
The Yankees received two reinforcements to their already-strong bullpen on Wednesday, activating right-hander Shawn Kelley from the disabled list and acquiring lefty David Huff from the Giants.
Kelley had not pitched in a big league game since May 6 due to a lumbar spine strain.
"I still had some fatigue and maybe a little bit of stiffness in the first couple of bullpens, but once the sim game went great and the two rehab outings, I felt nothing," Kelley said. "My arm felt better than I thought it would, too, because it had been a long time. I wasn't really sure how my arm would hold up bouncing back, but it went good."
Kelley began the season as the Yankees' primary eighth-inning option, and he will reenter the fold with Dellin Betances and Adam Warren.
"It just gives me more versatility," manager Joe Girardi said. "Gives me another late inning guy with the two that we've had, that we've been using a lot, maybe you don't have one one day -- as I said, I think all these guys are interchangeable. It gives us more depth."
Meanwhile, the Yankees acquired Huff -- who was with the Yankees last season -- for cash considerations.
To make room for Kelley and Huff, right-hander Matt Daley was optioned to Triple-A and left-hander Wade LeBlanc was designated for assignment.
A's: Slumping Donaldson gets day off
Manager Bob Melvin left Josh Donaldson out of his starting lineup Wednesday against the Angels. It was just the second non-start of the season for the star third baseman. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and took over at third base. He went 0-for-2.
Donaldson is hitless in his last 23 at-bats and has made four throwing errors in his past three games.
"Over the course of the season, you're going to get a couple days off," Melvin said. "With the day off [Thursday], it made sense today."
Alberto Callaspo got the start at third base but had to leave when he felt ill.
"Alberto got sick in the middle of the game, so we had to do that," Melvin said. "I'm trying to give Josh a whole day off. He [Callaspo] just couldn't make it."
• Oakland will be without Callaspo during the Yankees series as he takes paternity leave for the birth of his second child.
• Carlos Beltran played catch at Safeco Field on Wednesday for the first time since going on the DL with a bone spur last month.
• The A's lead the Majors with 20 outfield assists, including nine by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.