A Sonny start in Oakland ended gloomy as the Athletics dropped another divisional game at home Tuesday night.
While Gray was serving up home runs, Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma (W, 1-3, 4.03 ERA) wiggled out of an early jam but hunkered down to give up one run in seven innings and earn the win.
Manager Bob Melvin said after the game that his offense has yet to hit its stride:
“It’s been a struggle for us. Iwakuma has been struggling some, and we got some balls up and we weren’t able to take advantage of a guy who wasn’t pitching terribly well.”
After a pair of scoreless frames from Gray (L, 3-3, 4.84 ERA), the Oakland offense worked its way to another prime scoring opportunity. Following back-to-back two-out walks, shortstop Marcus Semien and his team-high six home runs strode to the plate with the bases loaded. The shortstop failed to deliver, though, and the early rally went fruitless.
“That’s how it goes a lot of times. You get on the streaks when you’re not hitting the ball well, or maybe you are hitting it well and not getting hits … We didn’t score enough runs to give ourselves a chance.”
As seems to often be the case, when one team is unable to capitalize, the other makes it hurt.
After an impressive opposite field home run from Robinson Cano (9) in the fourth Gray calmed down, pitching into the eighth.
The ace departed with no outs and two runners on base, with a run already in, in the inning, trailing 4-1. Lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski came out of the bullpen to face scuffling lefty swinger Kyle Seager, but the move backfired, as the third baseman launched a three-run bomb (6) deep into the night.
Despite his tying a career-high in runs allowed, Melvin thought his starter looked good:
“His ball-to-strike ratio was a lot better. I though his stuff was really good, at times. Really, the one bad pitch — the one to Martin.”
Gray, who finished allowing 11 hits, one walk and seven runs while striking out six, added:
“I thought I threw the ball well. It’s definitely the best I’ve felt all year, it was just really unfortunate the way it turned out. … It’s weird, you pitch into the eighth inning, and you walk away and you come out with a really bad start. It was a really weird game tonight.”
Given the lack of run support, the outcome would not have changed, even if Gray had shut the door after Cano’s homer.
The A’s first run came via the speed of Billy Burns.
The leadoff man led off the sixth inning with a solid ground ball up the middle before swiping second for his eighth stolen base of the season. Burns then scampered home on an RBI single from Jed Lowrie.
While the Seattle offense was busy pounding out 13 hits — five of the extra-base variety — the one-two tandem of Burns and Lowrie accounted for four of the A’s six total hits.
Left fielder Khris Davis added another tally on a long homer (6) to center field in the ninth. But it was nothing more than cosmetics, at that point.
Davis did not want to discuss his three big flies in the past two nights:
“I’d prefer not to talk about myself, honestly. I mean, they’re kind of meaningless. At the end of the day, we still lost.”
Regarding the A’s inability to score, the slugger added:
“I think it’s temporary, as far stringing good AB after good AB together to produce runs.”
With this being consecutive home series number 40 of three games or more in which the A’s will not sweep, they look to stave of a sweeping of their own.
Fending off the sweep will come as a tall order, especially being mired in their team-wide slump. Oakland will have to beat Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (2-2, 1.38 ERA) by handing the ball to the “Throwin’ Samoan” Sean Manaea (0-0, 7.20 ERA) for the rookie’s second career start Wednesday afternoon.