Angels rookie out-pitches A’s ace Sonny Gray

I took no time at all for the Oakland Athletics to long for Seattle’s Safeco Field, Monday night.

In suffering a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3-4) after erupting both on the mound and in the batter’s box for a sweep of the Mariners (2-5), the A’s (4-4)  fell right back in to the home funk that led to an opening series defeat at the hands of the Chicago White Sox (5-2).

Despite looking nearly unhittable through five innings, Oakland starter Sonny Gray (1-1, 2.70 ERA) was crushed in the sixth, and lasted only 6-1/3 in being saddled with three runs and the loss. Angel starter Nick Tropeano continually wiggled out of jams, allowing six hits and two walks, going five scoreless and collecting the win in his first start of the season.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Related: Full Assortment — A’s bats overcome errors in Seattle sweep

Gray had allowed just two hits and two walks through the first five frames. After getting Angels second baseman Cliff Pennington to strike out on a two-strike foul bunt, though, he left three consecutive fastballs up and on the inner half.

A double by Yunel Escobar and RBI single by Daniel Nava set up 2014 American League MVP Mike Trout, who crushed a liner off the bleachers over the 388 sign in left-center.

 

A’s Manager Bob Melvin talked about the dooming inning after the game:

“It ended up being, three good at-bats was the story of the game. The double that (Josh) Reddick almost gets to, Nava gets a hit and (Trout) hits a homer. Other than that (Gray) had his really good stuff today.”

Melvin added that, against most hitters, his ace’s first-pitch fastball was a well-thrown and likely coaxed a roll-over grounder for a double play. Against one of the league’s very best, however, it became a game-winning home run.

The starter agreed with the skipper, adding that making pitches to an elite hitter is different:

“When I threw the ball, when I released it, I kinda was like ‘that was a good sinker.’ It was just, to him, it kind of sunk a little too much and went right in to his barrel. He’s one of the best players in the game, and you can make good pitches and guys like Trout can do some damage.”

The Angels’ offensive leadership duo of Trout and Albert Pujols  had been dormant through the first six games of the season, going a combined 7-for-44 (.159).

Both woke up in a big way, putting together two hits in six at-bats, with two walks and two RBIs.

Oakland’s offense, on the other hand, struggled again and could muster only one hit in 11 attempts with runners in scoring position. Melvin’s offense is now hitting an anemic .230 with runners at second, third or both.

Catcher Stephen Vogt said that after a successful series in Seattle it was the Angels pitcher that took the sting from the Oakland bats:

“He was good. He wasn’t throwing anything back-to-back. He was mixing speeds, mixing his pitches really well. He kept us off-balance, and we weren’t able to come up with the big hit after we got guys into scoring position. We’ve got to do better than that.”

Vogt contributed to those struggles, with a pop out to Escobar at third base to end the fifth. It was his team’s third baseman, however, that wasted the A’s biggest at-bat of the game.

Immediately following an intentional walk to Reddick, with Coco Crisp on third, Danny Valencia sent an innocent grounder up the middle ending the threat.

Instead of the ace having a lead heading into the final three frames, the game remained tied. Nine pitches and four batters later the Trout’s gang was up 3-0.

The A’s finally got their hit with runners in scoring position in the ninth, their last attempt in the situation. With two out and Jed Lowrie on second, Marcus Semien came up with a clutch ground-ball single the other way, plating the Oakland’s only run.

Despite the loss being especially tough, with it coming in a Gray start, Semien gave his guys something to build upon when they face Anaheim’s Hector Santiago (0-0, 3.00 ERA).

Melvin will counter with Kendall Graveman (0-1, 3.38 ERA) who, like Gray on Monday, was fabulous save for the sixth inning in his first start of the season.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.