It's difficult to grasp the nature of Sonny Gray's struggles this season. He certainly isn't the only previously-elite pitcher putting up a bad year; last year's AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel seems to have lost his stuff, as well as Chris Archer, despite maintaining his elite K rate. Pitchers have long been known to be the most volatile element on a baseball team, but it's saddening and confusing and just nauseous to watch your staff's ace pitch like Eric Surkamp game after game after game. It's depressing to think that if Sonny pitched at a similar level to last year, the Athletics would probably be sitting on a .500 record right now and might be buyers rather than sellers (or not? who knows what's happening anymore) at the trade deadline.
Sonny Gray put up arguably his worst start in a terrible year, and it feels like something we've seen far too many times already. He got through the first two innings with the help of some good defense. Smolinski made a slick (literally and figuratively) sliding catch to help out Gray for the first Indians out. Marcus Semien made a fantastic diving play to end the 1st inning and Sonny himself made a nice little spear to start the second. Sonny got a couple of strikeouts with his curveball and was doing a decent job of keeping the ball down, one of the primary features of the previous version of Gray that was regrettably removed in patch 2.0.16.
Unfortunately we were reminded of some of the new "features" of 2016 Sonny in the bottom of the third. He left a couple of fastballs up in the zone that were hit for singles, then walked Roberto Perez, who was 1 for 23 coming into this game and was trying to bunt the entire at-bat. Seriously, it was an unbelievably awful at-bat by Sonny. He gave up a walk to by far the worst hitter on either team, who wasn't even trying to do more than sacrifice himself. Sonny has been bad against the bottom of the order all season for some reason:
Weirdly, much of the damage against Gray this season is coming from bottom of order. No. 8 hitters batting .477 against him, No. 9 .439.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 31, 2016
Things continued to unravel in the same way they always do with Sonny these days. After giving up several hits and a walk, he gave up yet another single on yet another elevated fastball to Kipnis to put the Indians up 2-0. And predictably, Sonny followed that up with his FIFTEENTH wild pitch of the season to remove the double play possibility and allow a sacrifice fly to put the Indians up 3-0; the terrible Perez wouldn’t just reach base, he would score. And Sonny wasn’t through - he gave up a massive home run to Mike Napoli, putting the Indians up 5-0.
Reddick showed that he still has a strong arm to start the 4th, throwing out Lonnie Chisenhall at 3rd after back-to-back sharply hit singles. But Sonny Gray kept up his terrible day. He gave up a two more singles including Roberto Perez’s second hit of the year (and second time reaching base today) to put Cleveland up 6-0. Yet another walk and Sonny was out of the game after only 3 1/3 innings. Coulombe came in and gave up a sacrifice fly before finishing the inning, Cleveland up 7-0.
On the bright side, Daniel Coulombe and J.B. Wendelken pitched extremely well out of the A's bullpen. The game was lost by the time Sonny came out, but they did an extremely admirable job of shutting down the Indians offense and eating innings to save the rest of the guys in the pen. Wendelken in particular was fantastic, going 3 innings allowing only 2 baserunners with 3 strikeouts. Wendelken probably should be a ROOGY but has repeatedly been shoved into long relief this year, and it's always good to see the guy have a solid day despite not being played to his strengths (though the circumstances make it understandable).
The A's offense, on the other hand, did pretty much nothing all day. There's really not much to say. Kluber did his thing and kept Oakland off balance. Semien struck out a couple of times and generally looked quite bad against Kluber, though he managed a double against the Indians bullpen. Max Muncy, on the other hand, looked very good. He had a couple of long, thoughtful at-bats that resulted in a walk and an opposite field single on a pitch outside and generally looked like he had a solid gameplan each time he came to the plate.
Otherwise, there just wasn't much of note. The A's struck out a lot, they missed some opportunities on hanging sliders, and just generally very little happened. We got runners on base and even as far as scoring position on a couple of occasions, but never got the hits when they counted. Kluber is a good pitcher and while it was definitely not a good day offensively, it was without a doubt the less disappointing half of this game.
So the A's got swept by the Indians. They have an off day and then play in Anaheim against the Angels Tuesday at 7:10. Until then, WHERE ARE MY TRADES?