OAKLAND –- Take a five-run lead into the seventh inning with Sonny Gray on the mound, and victory should be signed, sealed and delivered.
But nothing can be taken for granted with the 2015 A’s, where the good times can give way to inexplicable disappointment in the blink of an eye. Or, to be specific, in the span of one horrendous inning that had to be seen to be believed.
The A’s took a 7-2 lead into the seventh, then watched the Los Angeles Angels bat around in an eight-run rally that included three Oakland errors. When it was over, the A’s had absorbed a 12-7 defeat that combined all of the worst elements they’ve shown this season – unreliable bullpen work, shaky defense and an overall deflating performance in front of a lively fireworks night crowd at the Coliseum.
The most astonishing part was that the night first began to crumble with Gray on the hill. He entered the game with a Major League-best 1.60 ERA. Given even a small lead this season, he has beared down and appeared indestructible as the innings have ticked away.
But he walked the first two batters of the seventh, then allowed consecutive singles to score a run and load the bases with no outs as reliever Drew Pomeranz entered. Pomeranz walked his first batter to force in a run, then struck out Kole Calhoun.
Edward Mujica, fresh off the disabled list, entered, and that’s when the adventures began. Left fielder Ben Zobrist misplayed Mike Trout’s liner for an error, then Albert Pujols lined a grand slam that just cleared the left field wall and put the Angels up 9-7.
It all continued to slide downhill from there for the home team.
Starting pitching report
Gray pitched much better than his final line indicated. He wound up charged with a season-high six runs (five earned) over six-plus innings. That raised his ERA to 1.95.
He allowed just three hits over the first six innings. Then the wheels came off in the seventh, manager Bob Melvin stuck with him for 113 pitches, and disaster followed for the bullpen.
Pomeranz, Mujica, Evan Scribner, Eric O’Flaherty and Fernando Abad combined to give up seven hits and six runs (four earned) over three innings.
At the plate
Billy Burns had three singles, none of which reached the outfield grass, but all of which played a part in A’s scoring rallies. Burns has an A.L.-leading 19 infield hits. More importantly, he’s riding a 10-game hitting streak, right on the heels of a 12-game hitting streak.
He reached in the first and eventually scored on Ben Zobrist’s three-run homer. In the second, Burns beat out a two-out single to the left side to score Brett Lawrie for a 4-1 A’s lead. Stephen Vogt homered in the fifth, and when he added a two-run double in the sixth, the A’s appeared to be sitting pretty with a 7-2 lead.
The top three hitters in the A’s order – Burns, Vogt and Zobrist –went a combined 7-for-14 with five runs and seven RBI. That alone, you would think, would be enough to pave the way to victory.
In the field
The number under the error column, four, said it all.
The announced turnout was 25,528 on fireworks night.
Jesse Hahn (4-5, 3.62) and Jered Weaver (4-7, 4.65) take the mound in Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. matchup.