Life away from the Coliseum usually treats Sonny Gray quite well, but the A’s ace stumbled Saturday night at Camden Yards.
He got tagged for a season-high five runs and issued four walks in Oakland’s 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles that evened up a three-game series. It was just the second loss in 13 starts for Gray (6-2), who came in with a 3-0 mark and American League-best 1.25 ERA in five starts on the road.
With Gray laboring, the A’s could do little against Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman (1-1), who showed why he was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The 23-year-old notched his first big league victory as a starter, limiting the A’s to just four hits over seven innings and pumping his fastball in the high-90’s as late as the seventh.
But it wasn’t like the A’s didn’t have their chances. Twice they put the first two hitters aboard against Gausman and failed to score. Josh Donaldson struck out four times in four at-bats.
The loss left the A’s with a five-game division lead pending the Los Angeles Angels’ result Saturday night.
Starting pitching report
Gray gave up Adam Jones’ homer in the first but otherwise looked strong through the first four innings. Then he lost the strike zone in a three-run fifth. David Lough walked with one out and scored on Caleb Joseph’s double to right. Gray went to three-ball counts on four different hitters in the inning, and he uncharacteristically couldn’t clamp down once he got to two outs.
Nick Markakis dinked an RBI single through the left side on a hanging breaking ball and Jones drove in another run with a single up the middle. Coming into the night, opponents were 4 for 31 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Gray wound up being charged with a season-high five runs in 5 1/3 innings. He walked four and gave up four hits.
A return to Camden Yards didn’t go well for Jim Johnson (seen, right).
In the home ballpark where he enjoyed 50-save seasons the past two years, Johnson was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos. Then he surrendered a homer to Lough on his first batter faced. Johnson gave up a single and a four-pitch walk before finally retiring the side and slammed his glove on the bench in disgust upon returning to the dugout. Johnson came in with a 1.84 ERA on the road, but he’s now allowed 10 earned runs over his past 11 outings.
Facing a 6-1 deficit, A’s manager Bob Melvin got lefty Jeff Francis some rare work.
The left-hander made his first appearance since May 24 and struck out three over two scoreless innings.
At the plate
Gausman was dialed in, mixing his live fastball with a nasty changeup and slider. Coco Crisp homered in the third to tie it 1-1. But that was it off Gausman. Down 4-1 in the sixth, the A’s were in business with runners on second and third and one out. But Donaldson whiffed on a breaking ball and Brandon Moss swung through a 99 mile-per-hour fastball to end that threat.
Kyle Blanks delivered a two-run pinch-hit single in the eighth that cut Baltimore’s lead to 6-3.
In the field
The Orioles turned in two double plays in the early innings that helped Gausman’s cause.
The A’s played an errorless game.
This three-game series wraps Sunday morning as Scott Kazmir (6-2, 2.40) matches up against Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 4.39) in a 10:35 a.m. contest.
Photo of Jim Johnson courtesy of AP.