ANAHEIM – Judging from the number of Yankees fans who filled the ballpark Friday, Derek Jeter will get lots of love this weekend in his final series at the Coliseum.
Those fans had plenty to cheer for on Friday, and it wasn’t all centered on the retiring Cooperstown-bound shortstop. The A’s mustered just two hits in a 7-0 defeat in the opener of this three-game series.
They didn’t get a man on base against right-hander David Phelps (2-4) until the fourth inning, and they didn’t register their first hit until Derek Norris looped a ball into left field in the fifth. Meanwhile, A’s starter Sonny Gray endured more early-game turbulence, allowing all three of his runs in the first two innings, and that was enough to do in the home team on this night.
The seven-run defeat was Oakland’s most lopsided of the season.
The A’s have now lost five of their past eight and are 10-11 over their last 21 contests. The only good news on the night was that it didn’t cost them in the standings. They remain four games up in the American League West thanks to the Los Angeles Angels falling to Atlanta.
Jeter made his presence felt, singling in his first two at-bats and scoring in the first inning. He’ll be honored before Sunday’s game, but the A’s seemed willing to play too gracious of hosts Friday night.
Starting pitching report
A season-long theme continued as Gray (6-3) encountered early trouble before settling into a nice rhythm. He’s allowed 32 total runs this season. Exactly half of those have come in the first three innings of a game.
The Yankees greeted him with three consecutive singles to start the night, the final one a run-scoring hit from Jacoby Ellsbury. Mark Teixeira added a sacrifice fly to put the A’s in a 2-0 hole before they came to bat.
In the second, Gray gave up a one-out single to Brian Roberts and walked No. 9 hitter Kelly Johnson. Then he hung a 2-2 curve that Brett Gardner knocked into left-center for an RBI single and 3-0 Yankees lead.
From that point forward, the electric stuff that’s baffled hitters for most of his brief career magically reappeared. Gray retired 13 of his final 14 hitters. Six of his seven strikeouts came over his final three innings of work.
Gray ran his pitch count up early but lasted six innings, giving up the three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked just one. But his ERA has risen over each of his past four starts, from 1.99 to its current 2.93.
It was a 3-0 game when Jeff Francis took the mound to start the eighth. The Yankees exploited him for four runs on five hits to ensure the packed house wouldn’t see an A’s comeback.
At the plate
The A’s mustered just two hits in 6 2/3 innings against Phelps, who came in with a 4.88 ERA. More problematic is the continued cold spell of some of their most instrumental players. Josh Donaldson is mired in an 0-for-27 slump, a career-long hitless stretch. He at least stung one ball that went right to Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Cleanup man Brandon Moss is 8 for his past 40.
In the field
Donaldson turned in a sterling diving backhanded catch in the ninth. But an error in the eighth allowed one of the Yankees’ runs to score, as Derek Norris couldn’t hold on to Brandon Moss’ throw to the plate and it kicked away to let Ichiro Suzuki score.
The series opener drew 36,067 – the A’s fifth sellout of the season. “Super Mario Bros. Fireworks Night” might have had something to do with it, along with that Jeter fella.
Opponents are hitting just .211 off Scott Kazmir (7-2, 2.20), which is tied for the lowest mark in the A.L. He takes the mound in Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game, with Hideki Kuroda (4-4, 4.12) going for New York.