Rangers All-Star Yu Darvish made the shortest start of his career, and young A's ace Sonny Gray his longest - with his first career shutout.

Darvish ended a team-record string of 56 starts of at least five innings, going just 3 1/3 innings, and the A's beat division-rival Texas 4-0 on Monday behind a standout effort from Gray, 24. Gray allowed just three hits, one of them liberally scored at that.

Gray was a little worried that, at 99 pitches after eight innings, he might not get sent out to finish things up, so he tried to avoid manager Bob Melvin in the dugout. "Usually he looks at me and has a conversation when he comes in, but he didn't look at me after the eighth because he just didn't want to go there," Melvin said.

"I didn't know where we were going to go with that," Gray said. "I normally talk to him, share a laugh, but I put my head down. He goes, 'How ya feeling?' and I yelled 'Great!' and kept walking. ... I wanted to go back out there."

Gray - who dropped his previous outing against the Rangers, last week in Oakland - was crisp and efficient, allowing only two real hits, a single by Leonys Martin in the third and a single by Alex Rios in the seventh. A third "hit" in the sixth inning was clearly an error by shortstop Jed Lowrie - the grounder by catcher Robinson Chirinos clanged off his glove, deflected to Josh Donaldson at third, and Donaldson still very nearly got Chirinos at first base.

Through five, Gray faced only one man over the minimum, and threw 64 pitches. He improved to 4-1 overall, and helped the A's move a game ahead of Texas in the AL West.

"It makes it even more incredible, to do it against a team that's a top competitor in this league," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "That lineup is so potent, it's unbelievable what he did tonight."

Gray said that, after walking leadoff man Michael Choice in the first, getting Prince Fielder to hit into an inning-ending double play was key, and kept him from throwing 20 pitches in the first, something of a pattern in many of his starts. He threw 13 in the first inning Monday.

"After that, it was as well-pitched a game as I've seen in a while," Melvin said. "He even invented a pitch or two tonight, threw a couple of sliders."

Gray has had a slider in the past, but he hadn't used it in any of his previous starts this year. His sinker was particularly good Monday, and helped set up his curveball and his "handful" of sliders.