CLEVELAND — Thinking he’d established a building block with his previous start, Sonny Gray struggled mightily once again Sunday at Progressive Field.
He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and got hammered for seven runs as the A’s lost 8-0, completing a three-game sweep for the American League Central-leading Indians.
Gray worked through a turbulent fifth inning Tuesday against Texas and went six innings to earn the victory. But after two smooth innings to begin Sunday’s outing, trouble found him in the third as Cleveland struck for five runs off him. That included Jason Kipnis’ bases-loaded single that scored two, a wild pitch that led to another run and Mike Napoli’s two-run homer on a hanging curve.
Gray (5-10) went back out for the fourth and allowed four consecutive singles followed by a walk before manager Bob Melvin came to get him with one out. It marked the fourth time this season that Gray has allowed as many as seven earned runs, and the A’s quest to get their No. 1 starter back to his previous form remains their most perplexing problem of 2016.
The A’s managed just five hits off Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (10-8), who struck out seven and walked two over seven innings. The A’s have now lost three in a row after winning their first four series coming out of the All-Star break.
Starting pitching report:
Gray gave up eight hits, struck out three and walked two. As has happened in many of his starts, Gray got off to a crisp start before finding trouble that he couldn’t find his way out of. Another hallmark of his season also reared its ugly head — his struggle to take care of business against the opponent’s bottom third of the lineup. Cleveland’s 7-8-9 hitters went a combined 5-for-5 with an RBI and four runs scored against him. Gray’s 10 losses tie his career high, and his 5.84 ERA is the highest in the AL among qualified starters.
After Zach Neal impressed Saturday night in an extended relief outing, J.B. Wendelken shined in mop-up duty Sunday, tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
At the plate:
After falling behind early, the A’s never seriously threatened to get back in this one. Yonder Alonso had two hits, and Stephen Vogt snapped an 0-for-12 streak with a double in the fifth inning. Max Muncy drew his first big league start at second base in place of Jed Lowrie, who is dealing with a sore toe that manager Bob Melvin said has been a nagging problem. Melvin was hopeful that Monday’s day off will help Lowrie’s condition.
In the field:
Marcus Semien made a terrific backhand stop and throw to first to retire Francisco Lindor to end the first inning. Josh Reddick made a terrific throw from right field to nail Lonnie Chisenall trying to go first to third. Credit Ryon Healy for an excellent tag on the play too.
The announced turnout was 23,739.
The A’s will close out this nine-game road trip with three at Anaheim beginning Tuesday, when Sean Manaea (3-5, 4.57) matches up against Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17) in a 7:05 p.m. game. Kendall Graveman (7-7, 4.15) and Jered Weaver (8-8, 5.14) take the mound Wednesday at 7:05 . Then Thursday’s finale will get underway at 4:05, with the A’s still TBA on their starter and the Angels throwing Tim Lincecum (2-5, 8.49).