OAKLAND – Sonny Gray usually relishes the sight of the Seattle Mariners in the opposing dugout.
On Tuesday night, they turned the tables on the A’s right-hander. Gray was roughed up for six runs over five innings, and Oakland’s late-game rally came up just short in a 6-5 defeat.
Rather than capitalize on the momentum from Monday’s series-opening win, the A’s spent most of the night taking a step backward. As Gray (13-8) struggled to contain Mariners hitters, the A’s were generating nada against Seattle lefty James Paxton. They didn’t advance a runner past first base until the eighth inning, but then rallied. They got the tying run to second base with two outs in the ninth, but Josh Reddick grounded out softly to second against Fernando Rodney to end it.
Certainly the A’s entered the night with confidence behind Gray, given past history. He came in 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in five career starts against them. But the right-hander never settled in and found his rhythm. He got through two scoreless innings, but he walked his first two hitters of the third and gave up Austin Jackson’s two-run single.
Two more runs came home in the fourth on Endy Chavez’s chopper that bounced up the middle and somehow became a double. Then Gray piped a 1-0 pitch to Kyle Seager in the fifth and the All-Star third baseman crushed it for a two-run homer to right to make it a 6-0 game.
That was too deep a hole for the A’s to climb out of, which was unfortunate for them considering the Los Angeles Angels fell 8-3 to the Houston Astros. With just 24 games remaining, the A’s can ill afford to squander opportunities to gain ground if they still have their sights set on the American League West crown.
Starting pitching report
Gray’s outing was a shocker given his past mastery of Seattle. He found trouble early when he issued back-to-back free passes to Chavez and Brad Miller in the third. Gray entered the night tied for fifth-most walks issued in the AL (62). On many a night he’s been able to pitch himself out of trouble. Not Tuesday.
Jackson’s two-run single gave Seattle the lead, then the Mariners chipped away with more in the fourth. Logan Morrison drilled a double to left-center to put runners on second and third. With the infield drawn in, Chavez hit a bouncer over the mound that second baseman Alberto Callaspo couldn’t get to. It trickled into center for a two-run base hit and when neither shortstop Jed Lowrie nor Callaspo covered second, Chavez kept hustling into second for a double that never should have happened.
Then Seager’s two-run blast in the fifth ensured that Gray wouldn’t be coming out for the sixth. Along with his dominant body of work against Seattle, Gray entered the night 11-2 with a 1.97 career ERA against AL West teams in general.
Tuesday’s effort was hardly ideal for a team leaning on its starting pitching as it tries to nail down a spot in the postseason.
At least Drew Pomeranz provided a bright spot in the pitching department. Freshly promoted back to the majors, the lefty entered in the sixth and delivered three-plus scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with three strikeouts.
At the plate
Paxton, a highly touted prospect who missed a large chunk of the season with a back injury, faced the minimum through six innings. His effort continued to spotlight a weakness of the A’s: Their struggles to hit left-handed starting pitching.
But the A’s woke up starting in the eighth, when pinch hitter Adam Dunn delivered an RBI single to get Oakalnd on the board. Craig Gentry added a two-run double to make it 6-3.
In the ninth, the A’s got consecutive two-out doubles form Derek Norris and pinch hitters Brandon Moss and Sam Fuld during a two-run rally against Fernando Rodney. But Reddick grounded out on a 1-0 pitch to end it, slamming his helmet down in the outfield grass in frustration.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
A crowd of 23,859 was on hand.
Pitching matchups don’t get much better than Jon Lester (13-9, 2.55) vs. Felix Hernandez (13-5, 2.23). That’s on tap for Wednesday’s 12:35 p.m. series finale.