There is no compass or road map that Sonny Gray can reference right now.
That’s the toughest part for the A’s right-hander as he tries navigating his way through the most difficult struggles of his major league career.
First, some encouraging news for fans: Gray says he feels “great” physically and that an injury isn’t to blame for why he’s allowed 18 earned runs over his past three starts and failed to complete four innings in two of them.
But after Monday’s 14-7 loss to Boston, Gray also admitted he’s searching for answers.
“This is obviously the toughest three-game stretch I’ve ever went through,” he told reporters after the game. “I’ve had some bad games, two bad games, but this is three in a row now that have not just been pretty pathetic, they’ve been very bad. It’s definitely a struggle, and I’m going to have to start getting some people out here soon.”
Gray watched video after leaving Monday’s start, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits and left after 3 2/3 innings. It’s the second consecutive start in which he’s tied his career high in runs allowed.
“I feel the same” physically, he said. “(The ball is) just up. I looked. Every ball that was put in play tonight was middle of the plate and up. It’s just something I’ve got to get ahold of, and pretty quick now.”
It takes a stretch like this to really gain appreciation for how good Gray has been since breaking into the majors in July, 2013. In 76 career appearances before this season began, the highest his ERA had ever been was 3.28. That’s pretty amazing considering the statistical fluctuations that take place with such figures, particularly early in the season.
That remarkable past consistency also is a reason why this current period is so difficult for the 26-year-old Gray.
“That’s the hard part when a guy that’s been as good as he’s been, and as consistent as he’s been,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters. “To go through a struggle, it’s foreign territory for him. So this might be the first time in his life that he’s ever struggled (in baseball) and had to deal with it … He’ll be fine.”
As for diagnosing the problem, Melvin pointed primarily to pitch location.
“He hung a breaking ball, which he doesn’t normally do,” the manager said. “We’ve seen him do that a couple times in the past couple starts. Maybe the location of the fastball at times. Maybe he doesn’t have quite the movement. But everybody struggles over the course of their career. And he’s gonna figure a way out of it.”
The scoreboard wasn’t the only bad news for the A’s on Monday, as several players came out of the game hobbling. Third baseman Danny Valencia told reporters he’s day-to-day with left hamstring tightness – the same leg that originally put him on the disabled list. Second baseman Jed Lowrie reportedly was on crutches after fouling a ball off his right foot and requiring X-rays, which were negative. Melvin acknowledged to reporters that Lowrie’s foot was hurting.
Reliever John Axford was struck in the left foot by a line drive and got X-rays, which were negative. Melvin also told reporters that reliever Liam Hendriks is dealing with an elbow issue that left him unavailable Monday.
All the news would suggest a roster move or two could be looming to get some healthy bodies.