The scoring chances were scarce for the A’s on Monday night, but a golden opportunity awaited in the top of the ninth.
They put the first two runners on base against Kansas City closer Greg Holland, but the A’s couldn’t take advantage and lost 3-2 in the opener of a four-game series at Kaufmann Stadium.
Derek Norris came up with two on and no outs in the ninth. In a potential sacrifice-bunt situation, Norris was allowed to swing away and he hit a grounder to third that resulted in a double play that left a runner at second with two outs. Stephen Vogt flied out to end the game as Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson punctuated the victory with a backlip after making the catch, as Kansas City took over sole possession of first place in the A.L. Central.
Starting pitching report
Sonny Gray, coming off his worst outing of the season, was markedly better Monday night.
Kansas City got to him for a run in the first, and then he gave up consecutive two-out singles in the second that brought home another run to make it 2-0. It appeared Gray might be in trouble in the fourth when he issued back-to-back walks, but a line-drive double play got him out of the inning. He set the Royals down in order in the fifth and sixth, but then Alcides Escobar – who had an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch in the second – did the damage again in the seventh. Gray caught too much of the plate with an 0-2 curve and Escobar singled up the middle for a go-ahead single that gave the home team a 3-2 lead.
Big picture, Gray kept the A’s in the game and gave them a chance to win. He walked three and didn’t have his sharpest stuff. But he went seven innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits. He only struck out two, but you can’t hang this defeat on the starting pitching.
Ryan Cook delivered a scoreless eighth inning in relief of Gray.
At the plate
The A’s didn’t have much going on, finishing with just three hits. Royals starter Yordano Ventura was bringing high 90’s heat, and it seemed it might bode well for the A’s when thy got him out of the game after six innings. But things didn’t get any easier off relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland, showing why the Royals currently boast one of the better bullpens in the A.L.
Brandon Moss did come through with a two-run single in the third that tied it for the A’s. That represented Moss’ first runs batted in since July 29.
In the field
An odd play contributed to the Royals’ taking a 1-0 lead in the first. A’s right fielder Josh Reddick fielded Omar Infante’s single and tried to come up firing, only the ball completely slipped out of his grip as he started his throwing motion. If the TV footage had been more grainy, it would have fit perfectly on one of those NFL Films’ “Football Follies” clips. As it was, the error allowed Jarrod Dyson to advance an extra base to third, and he scored on Salvador Perez’s double-play grounder.
But Gray got a huge lift from his defense in the fourth after he walked back-to-back hitters with one out. Mike Moustakas smoked a liner to the right side, but second baseman Eric Sogard leapt high to snare it, and he threw to second to double off Lorenzo Cain and end the inning.
Jon Lester (12-7, 2.44) has a 1.65 ERA in 12 career starts against the Royals. That’s the lowest mark of any major league pitcher against Kansas City with a minimum of 75 innings. He’ll oppose Jeremy Guthrie (8-9, 4.35) in Tuesday’s 5:10 p.m. contest.