BALTIMORE – Having spent the past week aiding the cause of two American League East playoff hopefuls, the A’s will finally board a plane for home.
Their 0-7 road trip concluded in the most appropriate of manners, with tempers boiling over and mistakes playing a central role in their latest defeat.
Even Sonny Gray’s return couldn’t save Oakland in a 4-2 defeat that capped a four-game sweep by the Baltimore Orioles, who took control of the second AL Wild Card spot while whooping on the woebegone A’s this series.
Toronto, which leads the Wild Card chase, swept Oakland in three to start this road trip.
Gray (12-5) gave up four runs over 5 2/3 innings after a nine-day layoff due to back spasms. Just one of his runs was earned, but it was still far from vintage form from the Cy Young hopeful. He gave up a three-run homer to Steve Clevenger in the fourth on an 0-2 pitch, after Eric Sogard’s two-out fielding error and a double from Jonathan Schoop.
Not that the A’s looked all that game offensively. They mustered just three hits off Chris Tillman (9-7) and two relievers, as their losing streak extended to a season-high seven games.
Tempers flaired after the top of the fifth, when Sam Fuld bunted and was called out by home plate umpire Brian Knight for running inside the base line. Fuld began protesting with Knight as the A’s took the field. He was ejected, then manager Bob Melvin came out to argue and he too was ejected.
Starting pitching report:
Gray got off to a solid start with three scoreless innings. But the three-run shot was just the third homer he’s allowed in his career on an 0-2 pitch. After the A’s closed to within 3-2 in the sixth, he again got bit on an 0-2 pitch, as Caleb Joseph doubled past a diving Billy Burns to make it 4-2.
Drew Pomeranz entered in the sixth to shut off the damage. Evan Scribner and Pat Venditte finished things out and prevented further damage, with Venditte working around a misplayed fly ball by left fielder Mark Canha that went for the A’s third error of the night.
At the plate:
The A’s took an early lead on Danny Valencia’s homer in the second. Then Canha added another solo shot to close Oakland’s deficit to 3-2. But the only other hit besides that came on Canha’s single in the third.
In the field:
Eric Sogard typically is as steady as they come at second base, but he committed his third error in his past eight games in the fourth, and it proved costly. Chris Davis hit a grounder for what should have been the third out, but Sogard – playing in shallow right field – couldn’t corral it. Jonathan Schoop followed with a double, and then Steve Clevenger clubbed his three-run shot.
Billy Burns, who entered in center after Fuld was tossed, made a fantastic leaping catch at the wall to rob Chris Davis of a homer in the seventh. The highlight-reel grab even drew some applause from Orioles fans.
Marcus Semien committed a throwing error, his major league-high 31st error on the season. That’s the most by a major league shortstop since the White Sox’s Jose Valentin had 36 in 2000.
The announced turnout was 22,766.
No rest for the weary, as the A’s open a two-game series with the Dodgers on Tuesday. Felix Doubront (1-1, 4.59) makes his first Oakland start in the 7:05 p.m. opener, and he draws defending NL Cy Young and MVP Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 2.39). On Wednesday, Jesse Chavez (6-12, 3.84) and Mat Latos (4-9, 4.81) take the mound at 12:35 p.m.