You'd think a 4-0 lead with your ace on the mound would almost certainly guarantee a win for the green and gold; but not tonight...
Sonny Gray hasn't looked sharp in his past two outings, and if you weren't concerned before -- tonight's start against the Boston Red Sox might raise a few alarms for an organization who has dropped six out of their last seven games, or 11 of their last 15 if you want to take it even further.
A's offense comes alive!
The A's surprisingly got off to a hot start against Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz in the top of the first; and it all began with a lead-off walk to Coco Crisp. Heading into tonight's series opener in Boston, the 31-year-old right-hander possessed a 3-2 record with a 6.81 ERA in eight career starts against the Athletics. And it showed when Jed Lowrie followed with a screaming liner that somehow managed to fall in fair territory, putting runners on second and third with no outs in sight!
When Josh Reddick stepped up to the plate, I just knew the A's were going to capitalize. He's without a doubt Oakland's hottest hitter and went 7-for-9 in the doubleheader against Baltimore this past weekend. Prior to the first pitch, Reddick had tied the green and gold franchise for eight hits in eight consecutive at-bats. Unfortunately the right-fielder hit a sharp grounder to the first-baseman Hanley Ramirez, but Red's AB didn't go to waste -- as Crisp scored on the play, giving Oakland a 1-0 advantage before Khris Davis and Stephen Vogt lined out to end the frame.
The A's tacked on two more runs in the top of the second thanks to an RBI groundout from Josh Phegley and a clutch two-out single from Crisp. Although the headline of that inning was Danny Valencia who began the frame with an lead-off single, but was removed from the game in the next half after re-aggravating his left-hamstring running down the first-base line. It's an unfortunate event for Valencia, who was reactivated from the disabled list just three days ago. However, it's uncertain who will man the hot-corner if the right-hander hits the shelf for an extended amount of time; Renato Nunez maybe? Matt Chapman? One can only dream, but I digress...
After a wild-pitch that plated Boston's first run of the game in the bottom of the second, Davis, who was 0 for his last 12 snuck a 1-0 hanging curve ball over the Green Monster -- giving the A's a 4-1 lead after three and everything seemed peachy for an Oakland A's ball club until things took a turn for the worst.
Gray's struggles on the mound continue.
Even though Gray pitched clean frames in innings one through three, Boston broke through against Oakland's ace for a mammoth six-run offensive outburst which if you're recording this on your scorecard -- transpired like this: double, single, double, strikeout, single, ground out, double, double.
It truly was a dismal sight if you're an A's fan; especially once you realize that Oakland's only reliable starter at this point is Rich Hill... and that's a conversation I'd thought would never come up! After this debacle, Gray left Monday's contest with 3 2/3 innings under his belt, which is his second shortest outing of his 2016 season -- next to the one in Detroit.
The Red Sox even took advantage of the A's reliefs corps, plating seven runs over the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings -- all of which was highlighted by a Bradley Jr. grand slam off of John Axford in the bottom of the sixth. At this point all the A's could do was claw, scratch and fight to get back in this game. Despite the score Crisp, Davis and Reddick kept on bashing the ball in the late-innings, and the ninth was no different.
Crisp smoked a double off of the Green Monster and Reddick continued his hot surge with a slap-silly single to left-field before Davis contributed with a double to cut Oakland's deficit in half, 14-7.
Heading into the 2016 campaign, Oakland's biggest question mark was the relief corps. For the time being they've managed to hold their own; but it's the offense and mostly importantly, the starting pitching who has faltered (aside from Hill) when it's mattered the most. The A's are going to have to turn it around and quick -- because I don't even want to fathom the thought off what may happen over the next few weeks if the green and gold rapidly falls out of contention.
Axford X rays negative. Hendriks has elbow issue that has been a problem for several days. Reinforcement/s likely tomorrow.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 10, 2016
Valencia says he's ok. Probably day to day but just tightness nothing more.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 10, 2016
Lowrie comes back on golf cart from X rays and says "It hurts like hell." No news on X rays yet.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 10, 2016