The Athletics dropped Wednesday afternoon's game against the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 after Sonny Gray conceded an uncharacteristic six runs in the game's first two innings. The A's managed 10 hits in the game to the Angels' 13, but Oakland could not put them together in the right order to make things close. Sloppy pitching and sloppy defense in the later innings took the A's out of the game entirely, though Edward Mujica pitched a scoreless sixth and Ryan Dull threw a polished seventh.
The Oakland are in a no-lose situation at this point. Sure it's fun to win, and it's even fun to play spoiler, but with the A's languishing in the American League, the silver lining of a loss is to move closer to the worst record in Major League Baseball, and consequently the top draft pick in next June's draft. The A's will pick seventh next year as it currently stands:
The Angels led things off with four consecutive singles off Sonny Gray. The third base hit was a very sharp liner by Albert Pujols that Marcus Semien should have caught, but was ruled a hit just based on how hard he hit it.
That line drive by Albert Pujols, which almost hit Marcus Simien in the face, traveled 109.61 mph, per Statcast. Angels already lead 2-0.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) September 2, 2015
The defense continued its sloppy play when, on the fourth base hit, Josh Reddick overthrew his cutoff man and failed to throw out Albert Pujols advancing from first to third, which allowed David Murphy to go to second. Erick Aybar grounded to second in the next at bat for the first out, and nobody advanced, but a run scored when C.J. Cron grounded out to Marcus Semien. David Freese added another run-scoring single to the pile, the Angels batting eight and scoring four in the first.
Gray allowed two more runs in the second when Albert Pujols hit his 555th career home run, tying Manny Ramirez for 14th on the all time list.
Pujols: "I think that’s the best I’ve seen over the last three years that we hit against Sonny Gray. "— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) September 2, 2015
Gray's ERA now stands at 2.36, falling into second place behind Dallas Keuchel's 2.24. And oh by the way, Keuchel was just named the AL's Pitcher of the Month of August, his third monthly award this season.
The A's offense had five hits in the first inning, but only picked up three more base runners against Andrew Heaney for the next six innings. Oakland's best chance after the first to add on against Heaney came in the fourth when Billy Butler reached on a double but could only advanced to third when waiting to see if Marcus Semien's base hit would fall. Billy Burns worked a deep one-out count but could only pop out to second, and Mark Canha flew out to right to end the inning.
The A's bullpen and defense returned to poor form in the eighth and ninth inning. In the eighth, Pat Venditte allowed a single to David Murphy but got a ground ball that resulted in just one out on a tricky play by Brett Lawrie. R.J. Alvarez came in for his second consecutive game but he started by allowing a run-scoring double to C.J. Cron. Pinch runner Kaleb Cowart advanced to third on Alvarez's wild pitch, and Cowart then scored on David Freese's infield single.
Dan Otero started the ninth inning, and Kole Calhoun led off with a single, going 3-for-4 on the day. The next play, Mike Trout hit a liner to center, but Billy Burns lost the ball in the Sun and so everybody moved up two bases.
Marcus Semien made a fairly common mental mistake in not being sure he got at least one out on an Albert Pujols grounder to him. Semien double-clutched but threw home anyway. Kole Calhoun was safe on the play for the Angels' ninth run.
Then there was Brett Lawrie's curious decision, with runners at first and second, to throw to first on a grounder to him with Albert Pujols running from first to second. This will be the sort of thing that gets resolved mentally as Lawrie spends more time at second base.
After giving up four runs in the first inning, the A's appeared to at least make a game of it. They also sent eight men to the plate, with Brett Lawrie hitting a two-out double, followed by an RBI single from Danny Valencia. Josh Phegley followed up with a two-run home run to draw the score to 4-3.
Jake Smolinski continued the inning with a single of his own and Billy Butler's bloop single advanced Smolinski to third base. Josh Reddick struck out swinging to end the inning, however.
Brett Lawrie enjoyed a multi-hit game with a double and a home run; that's back-to-back games with a dinger now. Stephen Vogt had a nice pinch hit one-out triple in the eighth but was stranded. Billy Butler went 2-for-4 with a double, and Marcus Semien hit two singles today.
Sonny Gray calmed down to throw three quality innings, conceding just one base hit in frames 3–5 before being relieved by Edward Mujica. Mujica threw a scoreless inning of his own, including one strikeout.
Ryan Dull threw his second major league inning against tougher competition today, the top of the Angels lineup. He struck out Kole Calhoun, forced Mike Trout to pop out to Mark Canha near the visitor's bullpen, and induced an Albert Pujols ground ball to third base. It was a polished inning for Dull, who matches Ike Davis with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Fernando Abad had no trouble getting the last two outs of the ninth inning. First, Erick Aybar grounded to third and Danny Valencia threw Mike Trout out at home. Then Kaleb Cowart lined out to Josh Reddick in right.
The Athletics have off tomorrow before they welcome the Seattle Mariners for three games. The current probables are left-hander Edgar Olmos for Seattle and right-hander Aaron Brooks for Oakland. The game starts at 7:05 PM Pacific Time.
But today against the Halos, it's the Athletics 4, the Angels 9.