A’s shoot blanks coming back from break

The A’s returned from their four-game layoff only to realize their game was rustier than a 1932 Packard abandoned in the French countryside.

Oakland fell 5-0 to the Minnesota Twins Friday evening, with starter Sonny Gray (L, 10-4, 2.29 ERA) getting slammed and the offense failing mightily.

Gray, who gave up the most runs he’s allowed all season, didn’t think his pitches were particularity good:

“I think maybe my stuff just wasn’t that good. They were laying off a lot of good pitches. So maybe I wasn’t as sharp as normal.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt agrees:

“For sure not. Obviously, five days ago, Sonny was at his sharpest. And he, for whatever reason, wasn’t as sharp as normal.”

Twins starter Ervin Santana (W, 1-0, 3.66 ERA) shut down Oakland’s bats. For a moment, it seemed as though he was pitching to a bunch of players who were informed that the season was effectively over.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Gray allowed the first grand slam of his career on a two-strike slider to Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who hit what initially seemed to be a pop out. Until the wind carried it, and carried it some more, all the way over the fence. Neither Vogt nor Gray thought the pitch was going out of the park.

Oakland’s troubles at home, where they hold a 18-27 record, have been a cause for concern. They’re 23-24 on the road, and have faced the same teams for the most part.

Gray, usually quiet and reserved following a loss, snipped to a reporter who asked about the pitch to Plouffe, asking whether the reporter had watched the game. The question was a fair one, too: “What kind of pitch was it?”

Gray called it a breaking pitch. The reporter suggested it was an 87 mph slider, which Vogt later confirmed. The A’s haven’t been feeling their best in Oakland this season.

Can manager Bob Melvin explain it?

“Nope. Wish I knew.”

The home field is supposed to favor the A’s. But it seems as though they’re not at home in the Coliseum this season.

And on Friday, the hopes that the A’s could regain control of their own destiny, at least for a day, those were quashed with a fury of strikeouts and poor defense.

Again.

The A’s have exactly two weeks to decide whether to be buyers, seller, or play a lame duck. And it’s nights like Friday that signal to the world that they should sell every player they can.

Again.

And for every start Scott Kazmir makes, his next coming Saturday, it’s easy to wonder whether it’s his last one wearing a green uniform.

The All-Star snub, who boasts a 2.49 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP, has been heavily scouted this season in the final quarter of his two-year deal and unlikely to remain with the A’s past 2015.

The same can be said for utility man Ben Zobrist, who like Kazmir, has been given a close looks, the Cubs being the most talked about suitors.

Others, Ike Davis, Tyler Clippard, Josh Reddick, Vogt and Jesse Chavez, may be moving soon as well.

And the clubhouse knows it. Few will talk about it, but they know. They’re just trying to focus on the game directly in front of them. Especially because its the only thing they have any control of while they’re in town.

The players who are almost certain to stay for at least another offseason are Billy Burns, Billy Butler, Sean Doolittle and Mark Canha. A short list indeed.

Everyone else is fair game. And that includes Gray, who assistant general manager Dave Forst recently called “untouchable” in a radio appearance. But the A’s have said similar things before, and just when Gio Gonzalez was thought to remain with the A’s, like a magician came along, he disappeared instantly.

And that’s back when he was younger than Gray is now. Younger than Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, and every other member of the A’s pitching staff — bullpen and starters.

Yes, the A’s clubhouse is familar with the goings-on this last offseason. They are aware that the boss traded away five of the team’s record seven all stars.

And that was after a wildly successful season that involved the postseason. At the deadline this year, we’re looking at a team that’s 10 games below .500, and that’s considered “improving.”


Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.