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.”

A's lineup: Healy moves into three spot, LaMarre gets first start

A's lineup: Healy moves into three spot, LaMarre gets first start

Bob Melvin has issued his lineup as the A's try to snap a five-game losing streak in Game 2 of a series against the Astros.

Oakland A's (10-13)

1. Jaff Decker (L) RF
2. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
3. Ryon Healy (R) DH
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Chad Pinder (R) SS
9. Ryan LaMarre (R) CF
Andrew Triggs -- RHP 


Houston Astros (15-8)

1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Josh Reddick (L) RF
3. Jose Altuve (R) 2B
4. Carlos Correa (R) SS
5. Carlos Beltran (S) LF
6. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
7. Brian McCann (L) C
8. Evan Gattis (R) DH
9. Alex Bregman (R) 3B
Joe Musgrove -- RHP

Reddick gets best of old roommate Healy, and the A's

Reddick gets best of old roommate Healy, and the A's

HOUSTON — Enduring a five-game losing streak is tough enough on its own.

Watching a former teammate play a part in prolonging the misery is worse.

Josh Reddick wasn’t the most dominant player on the field Friday for the Astros, but he picked his spots to make his presence felt, and that added a little salt to the wound for the A’s in a 9-4 defeat that was their fifth in a row. They’ve now lost 10 straight times to Houston.

Reddick was mad at himself after not making the play on Ryon Healy’s double in the sixth inning. He got another chance in the eighth and robbed his former roommate with a terrific catch as he slammed into the wall to end the inning. That stranded two runners and preserved what was a 7-4 lead at the time.

“Any time you’re playing against your former team you wanna do well against them. Beating them makes it a little bit sweeter,” Reddick said. “But when you can make a catch against a guy you became pretty good buddies with in a tight situation, it adds more to that.”

After Healy got his first big league call-up last July, and before the A’s traded Reddick to the Dodgers on Aug. 1, Reddick invited the rookie to move into his house as he cut his teeth in the bigs.

“I’m going to be giving Ryon a lot of crap, I guess you could say,” Reddick said afterward. “He gave me a little signal and finger wave and shook his head on the (double). I got him back and a little bit of payback.”

Reddick, who signed a four-year $52 million free agent deal with Houston in the offseason, was a pest to the A’s in more unconventional ways too. Twice he reached base on catcher’s interference calls when his bat hit the mitt of Stephen Vogt, another of Reddick’s closest friends on the A’s. It happened in the bottom of the first and contributed to the Astros’ three-run rally that tied the game off Jharel Cotton after the A’s had grabbed a 3-0 lead on Khris Davis’ three-run homer.

Vogt talked about both interference plays with mild disgust, more upset with the situation itself than Reddick personally.

“Typically I’m pretty far back behind the batter," Vogt said. “Reddick, I guess, has a pretty long swing when he’s trying to go the other way. … It’s just one of those freak things that obviously I’m not real thrilled about. It’s just frustrating. You don’t see it very often. It’s not really how you swing the bat typically, but he does a good job going the other way, and it’s on me. I’ve gotta make sure I’m far enough back and not reaching for the ball.”

As for Reddick’s important catch in the eighth, Vogt said:

“It’s hard to see him in a different uniform, and I know he loved it here as well. It’s hard to see him playing against us 19 times. To see him making catches like that, it’s not very much fun when he’s not wearing green.”

However, the A’s have more pressing issues than getting stung by old friends. They’ve struck out 57 times over the past five games, and with each day that passes, it’s increasingly clear how much they miss the speed and playmaking ability of center fielder Rajai Davis, as well as the offensive production of shortstop Marcus Semien. Both are on the disabled list, Davis for the short term with a strained hamstring and Semien likely for a couple of months due to wrist surgery.

Cotton wasn’t sharp, allowing a career-high 10 hits and failing to protect two early leads he was given. Those are the growing pains that will come for a rookie pitcher. What the A’s can’t afford are three-error nights like they had Friday and continuing to whiff at their current rate.

“When we went through our winning streak, we played real clean games, and now we’re a little shoddy,” manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s a psychological play that goes with that. When you’re not making plays and giving extra outs, it makes it tougher on pitchers and tougher mentally.”