PHOENIX – The A’s did well to score early Friday night, but they showed again why it’s so critical for them to continue building on a lead in the later innings.
They are simply too mistake-prone, too vulnerable to giving up the back-breaking hit to make a narrow lead stand up. They lost the opener of a three-game series, 6-4, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It was a game in which ace Sonny Gray was staked to a 2-0 lead by the third. In theory that should equate to good things. But two passed balls by catcher Stephen Vogt led to the Diamondbacks’ game-tying rally in the sixth. Then Gray (12-6) surrendered the lead in the seventh, and Pat Venditte entered and couldn’t hold down the home team down. By the time Arizona’s four-run rally ended, it was 6-2, and this one was all but decided.
Gray, trying to continue his push for the American League Cy Young award, wound up being charged with four runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings. He gave up just five hits, walked two and struck out five. He was good enough to win, but that’s been the case on several nights this season when the right-hander hasn’t walked away with a victory. His ERA rose from 2.10 to 2.13.
Starting pitching report
Leading 2-0, Gray began the bottom of the sixth by walking leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte, who moved to second on a passed ball. Gray struck out A.J. Pollock, but a critical sequence came when he got No. 3 hitter Paul Goldschmidt swinging, only to have the pitch squirt away from Vogt. Goldschmidt reached and Arizona had runners on the corners and one out. Both passed balls came on breaking balls, with Vogt appearing to get crossed up. Manager Bob Melvin visited the mound after the second one. At any rate, David Peralta doubled home a run to make it 2-1. Then Wellington Castillo hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory in right that tied it.
Gray surrendered back-to-back doubles to Chris Owings and pinch hitter Aaron Hill to put Arizona ahead in the seventh, and the right-hander left after Nick Ahmed sacrificed the runner to third.
Venditte, who doesn’t burn up the radar gun, has the deception to fool hitters. But if he’s not spot-on with his control, he’s vulnerable. He was called upon with a runner at third and one out in the seventh. After striking out Ender Inciarte, he gave up Pollock’s run-scoring ground single to right for a 4-2 Diamondbacks lead. Then Goldschmidt, enjoying one of the finest all-around seasons in the majors, pounded a two-run homer to center that measured 466 feet to make it 6-2.
At the plate
Billy Burns’ RBI single in the third broke a scoreless tie and Mark Canha followed with a double to score him for a 2-0 lead against Chase Anderson. But that was it until the ninth. Trailing 6-2, the A’s got a mammoth two-run shot from Lawrie that traveled 470 feet to left, hitting off a railing high in the second deck. Former Athletic, and current Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler entered. After Max Muncy singled with one out, Marcus Semien grounded into a double play to end the game.
In the field
Josh Reddick caught Wellington Castillo’s game-tying sacrifice fly in the sixth near the stands in foul territory, not particularly deep. It looked like he had a shot to get Goldschmidt, who was tagging from third. But Reddick’s throw home was cut off by first baseman Mark Canha. Regardless of whether Reddick’s throw was off line or not, the only reason to cut it off was if Canha had a play on David Peralta advancing to third, and it was unclear if he did. In any case, Canha wound up dropping Reddick’s throw.
The announced turnout was 30,059.
After his last start was cut short by a right foot contusion, lefty Felix Doubront (1-1, 3.70) returns to the mound for the A’s on Saturday. He’ll match up against Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 2.84), with first pitch at 5:10 p.m.