Sonny Gray’s season took another troubling step in the wrong direction Monday as the A’s let another game spin out of control.
The right-hander couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning and gave up seven runs for the second consecutive start as the A’s were routed 14-7 by the Boston Red Sox.
Over his last three outings, Gray has allowed 18 earned runs in just 12 2/3 innings, easily the roughest three-start stretch of the 26-year-old’s career. Opponents are hitting .329 off him over that span and his overall ERA has swelled to 6.00.
After the A’s allowed a season-high 11 runs in Sunday’s loss at Baltimore, they took just 24 hours to establish a new mark. They’ve also given up grand slams in each of the past two games and have dropped 12 of their past 16.
Most discouraging in Monday’s series opener at Fenway Park is that the A’s handed their starter an early three-run lead for the second straight game, only to see it quickly disappear. Gray took the mound in the bottom of the fourth with a 4-1 lead. By the time manager Bob Melvin came to get him with two outs, he’d given up five runs in the inning and threw 31 pitches.
The Red Sox, leading the American League in just about every significant offensive category, added another run off Fernando Rodriguez that was charged to Gray as the home team batted around during the six-run rally.
In a not-so-minor footnote, the A’s also watched third baseman Danny Valencia aggravate a left hamstring injury and leave the game in the second inning.
Starting pitching report:
Gray (3-4) , a Cy Young finalist and All-Star last season, usually is the pitcher the A’s look to to halt the bad times. Right now, he doesn’t appear capable of being that stopper. It started in April at Detroit, when Gray turned in a two-inning start that is the shortest of his career. In his previous start before Monday, at home against Seattle, Gray gave up seven runs and 11 hits but went seven innings. After that start, both he and manager Bob Melvin said his stuff was better and the outing was a step in the right direction. But Gray is consistently giving up hard contact, and even as he was winning three of his first four starts, Gray admitted that he was having to work his way out of trouble in those outings.
A’s starters have failed to complete six innings in any of the past five games, and that’s putting a big strain on a bullpen that can’t shoulder this kind of workload for a full season. Fernando Rodriguez gave up two runs over 1 1/3 innings in relief of Gray. Then John Axford endured a very rocky inning that started when Xander Bogaerts drilled a liner that struck him in the left foot. Axford would walk two and load the bases before giving up Jackie Bradley Jr.’s first career grand slam that made it a 13-4 game. Bradley finished with six RBI.
At the plate:
The A’s offense did its job against Clay Buchholz (2-3), working the Sox righty for four runs over the first three innings. Coco Crisp led off the game with a walk, moved to third on Jed Lowrie’s bloop double and scored on Josh Reddick’s groundout. That plate appearance ended Reddick’s franchise record-tying streak of eight consecutive at-bats with a hit. But he finished 1-for-4 with two RBI and is hitting .317.
Yonder Alonso’s double in the second helped set up a two-run rally in the second that included Crisp’s RBI single in the with two outs. In the third, Khris Davis hit a 1-0 pitch from Buchholz for a homer over the Green Monster, his seventh homer that trails only Marcus Semien (eight) for the team lead.
In the field:
There wasn’t much the A’s defense was going to do to keep the team in this one. Late in the game, Melvin went to the bench and inserted Billy Butler at first base and shifting Alonso over to third, his second appearance at the position this season. There was one forgettable moment in the seventh, when David Ortiz skied a pop-up near the mound. The A’s were in a shift, and Alonso charged in all the way from the shortstop area but couldn’t get there in time. Catcher Josh Phegley couldn’t make the catch and Big Papi had one of the more ridiculous RBI of his standout 20-year career.
Sean Manaea (0-0, 7.20) takes the mound for his first career start on the road in Tuesday’s 4:10 p.m. game. Sean O’Sullivan (0-0, 9.00) goes for the Red Sox.