ANAHEIM — First the win for Sonny Gray disappeared, then the A’s chance for a sweep went with it.
Holding a four-run lead in the seventh, the A’s bullpen collapsed in a 7-6 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday that ended with Jefrey Marte’s walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
That spoiled what should have been a joyous day for Gray, who threw six innings of two-run ball and was in line for his first victory since April 22. Oakland’s No. 1 starter has now gone 10 consecutive starts without a victory.
His team was poised for just its second four-game sweep of the Angels over the past 35 years. Instead, they headed back to the Bay Area digesting a bitter defeat on the heels of three consecutive victories at Angel Stadium.
It was no surprise who played a central role in the A’s disappointment Sunday.
Mike Trout hit a two-run homer off Fernando Rodriguez in the seventh that trimmed a 6-2 lead to 6-4. In the eighth, struggling reliever John Axford gave up the tying rally, Jefry Marte singling home a run and Andrelton Simmons tying it with his two-out RBI single.
Trout was at it again in the ninth, leading off with a single against Liam Hendriks. Albert Pujols lined a single to left, then Johnny Giavotella drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Marte followed by lifting a deep fly to right for a sacrifice fly that easily scored Trout from third.
The A’s haven’t swept a four-game series since they took the broom to Toronto on July 3-6, 2014.
Starting pitching report
Gray came in 0-5 with a 6.60 ERA over his previous nine starts, a five-game losing streak that is a career high and was tied for the third longest active losing streak in the American League entering the day.
The Angels got to him for two runs in the first, but he toughened up after that, holding the home team off the board through the rest of his six innings. He gave up six hits, walked one and struck out three. It wasn’t a dominant outing, as Gray had to strand two runners in scoring position in the third and a man on third in the fifth. That latter inning ended with C.J. Cron grounding out on a controversial 5-3 putout in which he and Angels manager Mike Scioscia both argued the ball was foul. But by evading trouble in the later stages of his outing, Gray avoided a pitfall of several of his past starts. He entered the day with a 2.61 ERA and a .199 opponents’ batting average over the first three innings, and an 8.05 ERA and .351 opponents’ average from the fourth inning on.
With the victory snatched from Gray’s grasp, the A’s still haven’t had starters get the win in back-to-back games since Rich Hill and Kendall Graveman did it May 29-30.
Ryan Dull, who’s been excellent this season, had pitched each of the previous two days and was presumably unavailable. That would explain why he wasn’t warming up even as Axford was struggling through another rough outing. The right-hander has now allowed six runs over his past six outings.
Hendriks came on for the ninth, as Melvin likely was saving Ryan Madson in case the A’s took the lead.
At the plate
After playing the role of table-setter with four runs scored Saturday night, leadoff man Coco Crisp made his presence felt in a different way Sunday, blasting his third career grand slam in the fourth off Hector Santiago. Marcus Semien made it back-to-back homers when he cleared the left field wall, and the A’s commanded what appeared to be a comfy 6-2 lead.
Semien is 9-for-22 with two homers and seven RBI over his past six games.
The A’s hit seven home runs total in the series, and the offense again did enough Sunday for Oakland to have brought home another victory.
In the field
Arismendy Alcantara, drawing a start at second base, made a nice diving stop and throw to first in the fourth. It wasn’t his greatest day at the plate, as he struck out three times.
A crowd of 36,715 was on hand on a very warm afternoon in Anaheim.
The annual Bay Bridge Series begins with Monday’s 7:15 p.m. opener at AT&T Park, with Daniel Mengden (0-3, 3.00) facing off against Jeff Samardzija (8-4, 3.59). On Tuesday, it’s Kendall Graveman (3-6, 4.68) vs. Albert Suarez (3-1, 3.68) at 7:15. The scene shifts to the Coliseum on Wednesday, with Sean Manaea (2-4, 6.02) expected to come off the DL and face Jake Peavy (4-6, 5.22). The series wraps Thursday with Dillon Overton (1-0, 4.76) and Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 1.99) taking the hill. Both games in Oakland start at 7:05 p.m.