A’s sleepy bats spoil Gray gem

O.CO COLISEUM — The A’s got runners on base. Starter Sonny Gray pitched what may have been his best career game, 12 strikeouts and only one earned run.

But the A’s were unable to do anything with runners in scoring position, being shut out by an Angels pitcher who entered Tuesday’s duel with a 7.84 ERA against Oakland.

Wade LeBlanc (W, 1-1, 4.23 ERA) looked more like an established ace against an Oakland team that had every opportunity to score. Instead, like Napoleon Dynamite, the A’s couldn’t score in a 2-0 loss.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

A’s manager Bob Melvin said:

“Well, we had some opportunities. One or two more hits and it’s a different game. … (Gray) was terrific. He was up for it. And you could see it, when he came into the dugout he had a look in his eyes, he was going to get after it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get him any support.”

Gray’s 12-strikeout, three-walk performance was all but nullified, and, after a few days of the A’s bats looking good, they returned to their dog day form.

Gray (L, 13-10, 3.21 ERA) didn’t make any bones about the offense, and owned the loss as his own:

“I felt good from the beginning. I felt good going out there in the first, had a good mindset. But unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to win.”

Oakland left eight runners stranded on seven hits in the defeat and, even when the bases were loaded in the eighth inning, couldn’t capitalize despite getting runners into scoring position five times.

Outfielder Sam Fuld said:

“Really in any situation, you gotta take advantage of those situations. … It’s tough to put the finger on (offensive struggles). I think sometimes, the idea of momentum gets overblown. I think it’s a day-to-day process, and we preach that. So if anybody’s a believer in momentum one way or the other, you never know. Every day is different.”

Los Angeles got their first run across on a fluke play — where Gray also recorded a strikeout. Outfielder Efren Navarro was caught stealing, but shortstop Erick Aybar was able to steal home before Navarro was tagged out.

The Angels’ second run came on a solo home run from infielder Gordon Beckham in the sixth. Gray explained:

“It was a fastball away, and I looked at it, and it was away. I got a ton of outs on that pitch tonight, it was just that one.”

Fuld said:

“Anytime you get a pitching performance like that, it’s frustrating to not reward him for that. You just chalk it up to another night and move on, get ready for tomorrow.”

The A’s have been shutout 11 times this season, but seven of those have come since August.

The A’s have been the epitome of hot and cold, scoring eight runs in each of their last two games, and then getting shut down by a guy who has pitched for five different teams in the last three seasons and has recorded only nine wins during that time.

They don’t have answers for it, either, only pointing towards tomorrow. Baseball is a tough sport, but after Oakland made it look easy for the first three months, they’ve fallen into the worst collapse in history.

Only the A’s and six other teams have recorded more than 56 wins by the All-Star break, the A’s had 59, and every team but the A’s won their division.

The A’s aren’t even fighting for that anymore, they’re just hoping they can win three of their next five games and sneak into the playoffs.

But since Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes on July 31, they’ve hovered at a win percentage just above 40 percent. At that pace to finish the regular season, the A’s could see themselves packing for home with everybody else.

Notes

The Oakland Athletics have not won three consecutive games since August 7-9 against Minnesota and are 14-27 dating back to August 10. … Oakland is 3-5 on this homestand against Texas (0-3), Philadelphia (2-1) and Los Angeles-AL (1-1). … Sonny Gray struck out 12 batters, a career-high, the previous being nine strikeouts on three separate occasions. He became the first Athletics pitcher with 12 strikeouts in a game since Dan Haren. … Fuld snapped an 0-for-12 streak with a single to left field in the 6th inning. … Josh Reddick collected a season-high tying three hits. … Geovany Soto had a 10-game hitting streak against the Angels snapped.


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