Sonny Gray’s stuff often is so good that he’s able to work around occasional command issues.
There are times when he gets himself in trouble jamming the bases with runners, but then works out of the danger and it springboards him to a dominant outing.
Mistakes are catching up to him more in the season’s final stages however. The A’s ace did well to gather himself and grit his way through 5 1/3 innings in Saturday’s 10-6 loss to Houston, which mathematically eliminated Oakland (64-85) from postseason contention.
But it was another outing where Gray showed uncharacteristic vulnerability. He put himself in a hole during a three-run first inning that included three of his four walks. He’s posted a 7.97 ERA in September, which has pushed his overall ERA to a season-high 2.72.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bullpen implodes, A's fall to Astros]
Gray has issued 11 walks in four starts (20 1/3 innings) this month. To put that into context, the most free passes he’s ever allowed in a month is 14. With two starts left for him in September, as the rotation currently stands, there’s a decent chance he eclipses that total.
Along with the three walks, Gray gave up a pair of doubles in the first Saturday (left fielder Jake Smolinski appeared to misplay one of those). The bullpen was active in that opening frame, and had Evan Gattis not run into the third out with a baserunning error, it’s possible Gray wouldn’t have escaped the first, which he ended at 39 pitches.
“Usually he throws more strikes,” A's manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. “Sometimes through the course of the year, you go through stretches where you struggle some. Whether it's late in the year and he's a bit tired, probably has something to do with it. But you're not going to be perfect through the course of the season.”
With two off-days built into their remaining schedule, the A’s could make an adjustment to get Gray some extra rest if they choose. It won’t be a surprise if they do.
Injuries have suddenly left the A’s with just one catcher who’s 100 percent. Stephen Vogt is still recovering from a foul tip that struck him in the groin, though it appeared Melvin was considering pinch-hitting him Saturday. And news surfaced that Josh Phegley is battling concussion-related symptoms after being struck in the head by a bat during batting practice Friday. He’ll reportedly be out until he passes all concussion-related tests.
That leaves only rookie Carson Blair, who’s started the past two games behind the plate and contributed an RBI single Saturday.