BALTIMORE – A’s manager Bob Melvin wasn’t around for the final four innings of Monday’s loss.
Then again, he’d seen enough.
Over seven games spent in Toronto and Baltimore, the A’s lost by way of blowouts and walk-offs. They fell into early holes they couldn’t climb out of, and blew leads they couldn’t hold on to.
There’s no positive spin to put on an 0-7 road trip. The A’s completed that unwanted accomplishment with a 4-2 loss to the Orioles, capping Baltimore’s first four-game sweep of Oakland since May 1987.
“Embarrassing,” said Melvin, who was ejected in the fifth inning along with outfielder Sam Fuld. “We ran into a real hot team in Toronto. … But not to be able to get a win, it’s embarrassing.”
The A’s had to be happy to board their team charter and head home, but even that thought could only bring a certain degree of relief. After a tough draw of scheduling that had them playing a get-away night game followed by a cross-country flight west, they were due to land in Oakland at about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Because of that, they won’t hold batting practice on the field before Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers. Awaiting them on the mound, naturally, will be three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Gray's return doesn't help, A's swept by Orioles]
They at least liked their chances heading into Monday’s game with their own Cy Young contender, Sonny Gray, returning to action after a bout with back spasms. Gray wasn’t his usual shut-down self, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing four runs (one earned), including a three-run homer.
Making his first start after a nine-day layoff, Gray labeled his stuff “average” and failed to complete six innings for the first time since May 24.
“It wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past,” Gray said. “My fastball was moving a lot, I was able to keep them a little off balance. But they put some good swings on balls. We just couldn’t over come that three-run homer.”
With just one of his runs earned, Gray’s league-leading ERA actually dropped to 2.04.
The A’s committed three errors, and given how few runs they’re scoring right now, they simply can’t overcome those breakdowns. Eric Sogard’s two-out error in the fourth extended the inning and eventually was followed by Steve Clevenger’s three-run blast that gave Baltimore a 3-1 lead.
“We didn’t help (Gray) on the defensive side,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “We have to be better than that.”
They also have to be better swinging the bat, and that’s been a problem for a good month-in-a-half. Only once on the road trip did they score more than three runs. Since June 26, the A’s are hitting .229 as a team while averaging 3.16 runs per game.
“We’re not putting much pressure on the other pitching,” Melvin said. “Make guys work … get guys on base, get ourselves some opportunities. We haven’t been doing that very well.”
They mustered just three hits Monday but brought the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth before Billy Butler grounded into a game-ending double play. His 22 ground-ball double plays on the season are second-most in the majors behind Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe (23).
Butler is hitting .236 with nine homers and 47 RBI. Over his past 24 games, it’s .169 with no homers and three RBI. That lack of production is tough to mask given how much his presence was supposed to mean in Oakland’s lineup.
After the A’s fell behind 3-1, Fuld bunted with two outs in the fifth and was ruled out for running inside the base line. Fuld argued he was merely trying to run a direct line to the bag.
Fuld admitted cussing at home plate ump Brian Knight when initially asking “What am I supposed to do?” He claimed he asked a third time, minus the profanity, and got tossed. In the meantime, Melvin said Knight told him to go check the replay. Melvin did just that, returning to the field convinced more than ever that Knight was wrong.
“I told him, ‘You were wrong,’ and he threw me out,’” Melvin said.
Considering how this road trip ended, getting a head start to the clubhouse wasn’t such a bad thing.