Sonny Gray got a rude welcome back from the Minnesota Twins, but they didn’t stop with him.
In his first start of the season since returning from injury, Gray was tagged for three home runs in a six-batter span as the A’s lost 9-1 Tuesday at Target Field.
The Twins later went deep three more times, all in the seventh inning, off Cesar Valdez. Six homers in one game, an astonishing display from a team that entered the night with just eight homers all season at Target Field.
The hope was that Gray’s return and center fielder Rajai Davis’ return from the disabled list would spark the A’s. It didn’t happen Tuesday, as Oakland fell to 1-6 on this road trip.
Gray, who missed the first four weeks with a strained lat muscle in his right side, looked sharp over the first two innings. His curve had bite and his location was spot-on as he allowed just a walk over his first two frames. But in the third, Brian Dozier hit a hanging curve over the wall in left, the first of Dozier’s two homers on the night. After Gray walked Max Kepler, Miguel Sano jumped on a first-pitch fastball and crushed it 444 feet to straightaway center for a two-run shot.
In the fourth, Gray piped an 89 mile-per-hour fastball to Jason Castro that went for a solo shot to center and a 4-0 Minnesota lead.
Meanwhile, the A’s couldn’t solve a familiar nemesis, as Twins right-hander Ervin Santana (5-0) held them to three hits over six innings. He improved to 17-7 for his career against the A’s.
Starting pitching report
Gray gave up only five hits over his six innings, the problem was three of them went over the fence. He was charged with four runs, walked two and struck out four over 88 pitches (56 strikes). If there was a bright side in his 2017 debut, Gray did get through six innings on what was expected to be a 90- pitch limit. And all of his damage was relegated to a six-batter span between the third and the fourth.
The A’s middle relief is not showing the ability to keep the team close after it falls behind. On Sunday, Frankie Montas gave up three runs in the eighth to Houston as a 4-1 deficit became 7-1. On Tuesday, Valdez got shelled in the seventh, as Dozier, Byron Buxton and Joe Mauer all homered to turn a 4-0 game into 8-0. Entering Tuesday, the Twins’ 20 homers were the third-fewest in the majors.
At the plate
After the A’s struck out 221 times in April, an Oakland record for the month, they whiffed 11 more times Tuesday and mustered just six hits total. Davis returned to center field and the leadoff spot, but went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. He went after the first pitch in two of his at-bats and popped up and flied out in those two plate appearances. Yonder Alonso’s home run to lead off the ninth helped the A’s avoid a shutout.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
Reported attendance was 18,930.
Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.25) and lefty Hector Santiago (2-1, 2.43) square off in Wednesday’s 5:10 p.m. game.