OAKLAND — They’ve lost blowouts and they’ve lost nailbiters.
But never in this woebegone season have the A’s lost in such baffling fashion as they did Wednesday night.
They took a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning, only to see starting pitcher Sonny Gray cough it up in swift fashion. The Rangers got two home runs each from Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos in a span of three innings and handed the A’s a 7-5 loss that pulled the rug out from under the home team, plain and simple.
For Gray, it was a puzzling step backwards after he was piecing together what looked like his third encouraging outing in a row since returning from the disabled list. But in the sixth, he gave up four extra-base hits, including two homers, and the score was 5-5 by the time he finally recorded the third out.
That half-inning seemed to suck the life out of the A’s. They had just one batter reach base over the final four innings, and John Axford and Sean Doolittle followed Gray to the mound and each gave up a homer as the Rangers commanded the lead and won for the second consecutive night in this four-game series. The A’s took the opener and will try to salvage a split Thursday.
Starting pitching report:
Gray was rolling through five innings and looking every bit like the rejuvenated pitcher of his two most recent outings since coming off the DL. He held the Rangers to three hits through five, struck out three and recorded eight ground-ball outs to just four in the air. It all unraveled quickly in the sixth as he started elevating pitches. Chirinos led off the inning with a homer on a 1-2 pitch. Shin-soo Choo and Ian Desmond each doubled to make it 5-2 and two batters later Prince Fielder hit a sacrifice fly to shave the A’s lead to two runs. Gray at least had the bases clear at that point, a chance to gather himself. Instead, he gave up Jurickson Profar’s single and Odor connected for a two-run game-tying homer to left.
Just like that, Gray’s bid for his first victory since April 22 was gone. He was lifted after six innings, having allowed five runs on eight hits.
Chirinos, Texas’ No. 9 hitter who also homered Tuesday, went deep for his second homer of the game Wednesday in the seventh off Axford to put the Rangers ahead 6-5. Doolittle relieved him with two outs and a runner on second and struck out Nomar Mazara to end the inning. But in the eighth, Doolittle got ahead of Odor 1-2 before elevating a fastball that Odor smacked to right for his second homer and a 7-5 lead. Doolittle had been marvelous of late, entering the night having allowed just one hit in his previous eight games.
At the plate:
The A’s drove lefty Derek Holland from the game in the fourth as they handed Gray a 5-0 lead. Jake Smolinski’s two-run homer keyed a three-run third, and two walks from Holland in the fourth set up two more runs. Nick Martinez relieved Holland with two outs that inning, and Billy Burns greeted him with an RBI double to left-center. Desmond booted the ball, allowing Smolinski to score a second run on the play.
Wednesday’s game marked the end of the A’s four-game run against left-handed starters. They went 2-2 during the stretch, and Smolinski made the most of his playing time. The right-handed hitter has started the past four games in right field and gone 6-for-14 with six RBI.
In the field:
The first-place Rangers overcame two errors to win for the 16th time in 21 games.
The crowd of 10,115 was the second-smallest home attendance of the season.
The A’s close out this four-game series by sending Daniel Mengden (0-1, 3.18) to the mound Thursday afternoon for his second career start. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Colby Lewis (5-0, 3.00). First pitch is 12:35 p.m.