Billed as a tantalizing matchup between two big-name pitchers, Wednesday’s game devolved quickly from the A’s perspective.
Sonny Gray struggled in the shortest start of his career and the A’s stumbled in most every other aspect during a 9-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Staked to an early lead, Justin Verlander (2-2) went 6 1/3 innings and did enough to douse any thoughts of an A’s comeback. Gray threw a whopping 40 pitches in Detroit’s four-run second and didn’t come out for the third inning. He surrendered four runs and four walks and hit a batter, generally struggling to find any sort of rhythm.
Meanwhile, the Tigers scored another run in the fourth with help from two errors, and the A’s missed a chance early to jump back in the game against Verlander.
The A’s generally take the field confident of their chances to win behind their All-Star righty. But Gray’s poor outing set them off course early Wednesday. Now they take the field for Thursday’s matinee needing a win to split this four-game series and finish their 10-game road trip with a winning record.
That seemed all but guaranteed after the A’s won four in a row to start the trip, but they’ve lost four of five since.
Starting pitching report
Gray (3-2) labored in his first matchup with Verlander since Game 5 of the 2013 American League Division Series. He threw 25 pitches in the first, managing to keep the Tigers off the board. But his pitch count ballooned to 65 by the time he walked off the mound in the second. That inning included three walks and a three-run homer from J.D. Martinez.
Gray’s ERA jumped from 2.73 to 3.81, and though he’d been solid through his first four starts leading into Wednesday, his walk totals raise eyebrows. Gray has issued 15 free passes in 28 1/3 innings. The 3.81 ERA that he’ll close April with is in contrast to the dominance he’s displayed in past Aprils. He turned in a 1.98 mark last season and a 1.76 mark in the season’s first month in 2014.
Going somewhat under the radar has been the shaky start to the season for Liam Hendriks. The first-year Athletic entered Wednesday with the highest opponents’ batting average among AL relievers at .442, and he’s now allowed runs in five of his past seven appearances. The A’s trailed 5-1 in the sixth, still within striking distance, when Hendriks served up Victor Martinez’s three-run homer to put things out of reach.
Hendriks generally has entered games with the A’s trailing, situations where he’s needed to absorb multiple innings to save the rest of the bullpen. In four of his seven outings, he entered with the A’s behind by three runs or more. Those aren’t situations that generally get a reliever’s adrenaline pumping. On the plus side Wednesday, Hendriks struck out five with no walks in his two innings. Still, the A’s need the hard-throwing right-hander to develop some consistency.
A’s pitchers walked seven total.
At the plate
After the Tigers went ahead 4-0, the A’s had a great opportunity to jump back into it when they loaded the bases in the third with one out. But Chris Coghlan struck out on a check-swing and Josh Reddick popped out. The A’s came up empty in an inning where they needed to start chipping away at their deficit.
The offensive highlight came courtesy of Khris Davis, who mashed a fourth-inning homer to center that approached 450 feet.
In the field
Defensive blunders led to a Tigers run in the fourth.
Shortstop Marcus Semien mishandled Anthony Gose’s grounder to put a speedy runner aboard to lead off the inning. Then reliever Ryan Dull threw wildly to first on a pick-off attempt to send Gose all the way to third. He would score on J.D. Martinez’s sacrifice fly.
Mark Canha entered the game late at third base and made a nice diving stop on Miguel Cabrera’s grounder to get an out in the eighth.
22,636 announced at Comerica Park.
The A’s finish this 10-game road trip Thursday with a matinee at Comerica Park. Chris Bassitt (0-1, 4.44) is coming off a rough start at Toronto and is looking to notch his first victory since Aug. 21 of last season. Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 7.00) goes for the Tigers. First pitch is 10:08 a.m.