Athletics

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.”

Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face

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USATSI

Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell has a history with foul tips and concussion concerns, so there was cause for concern after he took a direct shot during Wednesday's game against the Tigers.

With one out in the ninth inning, Tigers shortstop fouled a ball square into Maxwell's facemask. The A's catcher immediately fell backwards. As manager Bob Melvin and the team trainer checked on him, he appeared dazed and rubbed his eyes. In an attempt to try to stay in the game, reliever Liam Hendriks tossed two warmup pitches. Maxwell missed the first one, but even after he caught the second one, it was clear he wasn't right and was removed from the game.

Afterwards, Melvin was asked about Maxwell's status.

"He went through all the protocol. It doesn't look like a concussion at this point. We'll probably know more in the next couple of days," Melvin told reporters in Detroit. "Took a pretty good shot. More sore on his face because of where the impact was, which was right in the middle of his face."

Josh Phegley replaced Maxwell for the final two outs of the game. Hendriks managed to close out the 3-2 win for the A's.

 

Olson's home run streak ends, but Mengden dazzles as A's sweep Tigers

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AP

Olson's home run streak ends, but Mengden dazzles as A's sweep Tigers

BOX SCORE

DETROIT -- Daniel Mengden pitched seven scoreless innings, and Marcus Semien homered and drove in three runs, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 win and three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Mengden (2-1) allowed seven hits and struck out four, extending his scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings and helping the A's to their fourth consecutive win. The 24-year-old right-hander missed the first two months of the season after undergoing offseason foot surgery and was making his fifth major league start this year.

Liam Hendriks got the final two outs in the ninth to earn his first save.

Anibal Sanchez (3-5) pitched well in a losing effort, allowing three hits and one run in six innings. He struck out eight and walked three.

Semien's double in the third inning brought home Bruce Maxwell, who led off with a double. His two-run homer in the seventh put the A's up 3-0.

Mengden worked out of a few jams. He got Nick Castellanos to fly out to deep right center with two out and runners on the corners in the third.

In the fifth, after allowing two-out singles to Alex Presley and Jeimer Candelario, Mengden induced another deep flyout from Miguel Cabrera.

Castellanos led off the sixth with a single and advanced on a wild pitch. Mengden got a strikeout and two popouts to leave him stranded.

The Tigers threatened in the ninth off Ryan Dull, who allowed a one-out, two-run single to Andrew Romine. Hendriks relieved Dull and got Jose Iglesias to ground into a fielder's choice before striking out Presley.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: C Bruce Maxwell left in the ninth after taking a foul ball to the mask from Iglesias. Maxwell stayed down for a few minutes and was replaced by Josh Phegley.

STREAKING:
Castellanos extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games with his single in the sixth. ... Oakland 1B Matt Olson went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. He had homered in five straight games entering Wednesday, setting an A's rookie record.

UP NEXT:
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39 ERA) faces Texas on Friday. The Rangers have not announced their starter.

Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-12, 6.18) takes on Minnesota LHP Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.62) on Thursday in Detroit.