Rewind: Gray's struggles 'not something I expect from myself'

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Rewind: Gray's struggles 'not something I expect from myself'

OAKLAND — After sprinkling traces of optimism throughout his postgame comments following his previous start, Sonny Gray seemed lost for words after Friday’s defeat to the Yankees.

“It’s tough,” he said of his recent struggles. “It’s just … I mean, I don’t know. It’s just not something that I really expect from myself.”

For the fifth start in a row, the A's right-hander had trouble calling upon the command that last season vaulted him into the echelon of the American League’s top starting pitchers.

Last Sunday against Tampa Bay, Gray also struggled, but he came away from that somewhat inspired by what he claimed was a discovery in his mechanics that would allow him to keep the ball down in the strike zone and off the barrel of opponents’ bats.

He was unable to translate that discovery into results during Friday's 8-3 loss, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, walked four and and gave up five runs (four earned). For the season, the 2015 All-Star has allowed 38 runs, most in the American League, and seen his ERA rise to 6.19.

“For a while there, it looked like he had things figured out,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was just missing with some pitches that got his pitch count up. Then in the fourth, it wasn’t as good. You continue to work and try to find it.”

[STIGLICH: Instant Replay: Gray hit early, A's smashed by Yankees]

Is Gray hiding an injury? That’s a popular question among fans right now.

He’s said unwaveringly that he feels good physically. After Friday’s game, Melvin added that Gray displayed some of his best velocity all season, touching 95 miles per hour with his fastball.

But something is missing — command of his stuff and command of critical situations during an outing. Gray may not have left as many pitches up in the zone as previous outings, but he acknowledged he’s also not showing the ability to put hitters away. When he gets to two-strike counts, he’s burying too many pitches in the dirt rather than getting hitters to chase.

One of Gray’s best attributes when he’s “on” is his ability to work out of trouble, avoid damage on the scoreboard when the bases are filled with base runners. He simply hasn’t been able to do that over a five-start stretch during which he’s gone 0-4 with a 10.38 ERA.

Protecting a 1-0 lead in the fourth with two runners aboard, he gave up Ronald Torreyes’ two-run triple to left-center. It seemed center fielder Coco Crisp was in position to make a running catch, but he couldn’t haul it in. That wasn’t the only time Gray’s defense abandoned him during the Yankees’ four-run rally that inning. Crisp badly misjudged Carlos Beltran’s liner that went over his head for a two-run double.

But this outing wasn’t about what might have been had the A’s played sharper defensively. Friday’s loss was another example of the A’s young ace trying unsuccessfully to steer his game back on course.

And as good as the A’s (19-24) played during their recent stretch when they won five out of six, it’s tough to envision them making an upward move in the AL West standings without Gray pitching like the All-Star he was last season.

“I think he’ll turn it around,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “His stuff is too good and he’s too much of a competitor.”

**

Vogt had his left wrist wrapped after the game, as he was hit by a second-inning pitch from Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Melvin said Vogt probably wouldn't play Saturday.

"It got me right above the wrist fortunately," Vogt said. "It doesn’t feel good, but it's not injured.”

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Michael Conforto hit a pair of two-run homers and Jerry Blevins rescued the Mets' bullpen with a five-out save as New York held off the Oakland Athletics 7-5 on Friday night for its third straight victory.

T.J. Rivera put the Mets ahead in the sixth inning with a two-run single that turned into a Little League home run. Rivera came all the way around to score on the play after third baseman Matt Chapman, trying to get Rivera at second, threw the ball away into right field for a costly error that made it 5-3.

Moments earlier, New York loaded the bases when Lucas Duda's bad-hop infield single struck first baseman Ryon Healy near the temple. Healy left the game and walked off under his own power with a swollen bruise next to his left eye.

Conforto's second homer made it 7-3 in the seventh. Oakland rallied for two in the eighth, but Blevins replaced closer Addison Reed with the bases loaded and got five straight outs against his former team for his fifth major league save and first this season.

Normally a lefty specialist, Blevins recorded five outs in a game for the first time since 2014 with Washington. He retired All-Star slugger Yonder Alonso on a foul popup and struck out Khris Davis to escape the eighth-inning jam.

"We just tried to find some matchups that worked," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Yoenis Cespedes had three hits after raising eyebrows when he told the San Francisco Chronicle before the game that he wants to play the final season of his career in Oakland, his first big league team.

Cespedes, who signed a $110 million, four-year contract in the offseason to remain with the Mets, also said A's manager Bob Melvin is his favorite skipper and he doesn't think there's a better one.

"Bob's a great manager. I don't blame him," Collins said after the game. "This is the first I've heard of it."

After the game, Cespedes clarified his comments while speaking with reporters through a translator and said he meant no disrespect toward Collins or the Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes: 'I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland'

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AP

Yoenis Cespedes: 'I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland'

After signing a four-year, $36 million deal with the A's before the 2012 season, Yoenis Cespedes' time in Oakland came to an end halfway through his third season.

The current Mets star certainly hasn't forgetten his time in Oakland, sharing his desire to end his career back where he started it to the San Francisco Chronicle

“I wish that happens,” Cespedes said on Friday with the A's taking on his Mets in New York. “I told (Jerry) Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.”

Cespedes, who has also played in Boston and Detroit, loved his time in Oakland. 

“I still love the A’s, they were the first team to give me an opportunity to play in the big leagues," Cespedes said. “I love Oakland all the time.”

Another key reason for Cespedes' hope to return to the A's one day is how much he enjoyed playing for manager Bob Melvin. 

“I tell my guys here all the time that he’s the best manager for me so far,” Cespedes said. “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin.”

Cespedes hit .262 with 66 home runs in his time with the A's. Over his six-year career, the slugging outfielder owns a career .272 batting average with 146 homers.