OAKLAND – It was a high-energy day at the Coliseum on Friday, with a packed house for fireworks night and lots of excitement about the A’s blockbuster trade a day before.
But Oakland’s hitting?
That was a buzz kill.
Mustering just five hits and coming up empty with men in scoring position, the A’s went down quietly 1-0 against the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a three-game series at the Coliseum. They’ve lost three of their past four and saw their division lead shrink to just one game over the Los Angeles Angels. That’s the slimmest it’s been since it was one game back on April 28.
Sonny Gray turned in a terrific effort on the mound, allowing just three hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking none. But the offense went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and twice failed to get a runner home from third with one out.
In short, it was not the performance the A’s were looking for the day after they traded No. 3 hitter Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for lefty ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes.
Cespedes leaves quite a hole to fill in the middle of the order, and it was a forgettable night for the heart of the order Friday. Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie, the A’s 4-5 hitters, went a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. That duo came up to bat twice with a runner on third and one out.
In the fourth, Moss popped up to the catcher and Lowrie took a called third strike. In the sixth, they both went down looking.
Josh Reddick had three hits, but the A’s looked punchless against Jeremy Guthrie (7-9) and three relievers.
Starting pitching report
Gray (12-4) didn’t deserve an ‘L’ on this night. His only mistake came in the fifth, when he piped a first-pitch fastball that Raul Ibanez crushed over the right field wall for the game’s only run.
Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero held things in check to at least give the offense a chance to do something.
At the plate
There was a bright spot for Oakland offensively: Leadoff man Sam Fuld, in his return to the A’s, doubled and walked and twice got himself to third base with one out.
Fuld, a non-roster invitee who made the A’s opening day roster before being designated for assignment, stands to get heavy playing time in center field until either Coco Crisp or Craig Gentry return from injury.
Crisp remains day-to-day with a neck strain. He’s received a couple “trigger-point” injections, -- which inject saline and anesthetic into the neck muscles to provide hydration and keep the muscles loose.
It was a hectic couple of day for Fuld. He was in Kansas City, playing for the Twins, when he found out late Wednesday night that Oakland had re-acquired from Minnesota in exchange for Tommy Milone. Fuld had his wife, Sarah, and their three kids with him in Kansas City, and they spent Thursday making the six-hour drive from Kansas City to Minneapolis to collect their belongings. Then he hopped an early-morning flight to the Bay Area to join the A’s.
In the field
With Cespedes gone, expect to see lots of Moss in left field. He was out there Friday and made two terrific plays. The first was a sliding catch of Mike Moustakas’ shallow fly in the second, and the other was a running grab on a deep fly off the bat of Alcides Escobar. Stephen Vogt made a nice play behind the bag at first, then delivered an accurate off-balance throw to Gray, who was covering. And with a runner in scoring position in the eighth, second baseman Eric Sogard ran down Nori Aoki’s shallow fly toward right.
Super Hero Fireworks Night drew 35,067 -- the A’s 11th sellout this season.
The storyline of all storylines … Jon Lester (10-7, 2.52) makes his A’s debut on the same day that the team is holding a Yoenis Cespedes T-shirt giveaway, honoring the player that was traded away for Lester. “A collector’s item,” as G.M. Billy Beane jokingly described it. Lefty Jason Vargas (8-4, 3.31) goes for Kansas City in Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game.