BALTIMORE--A down day for Sonny Gray and a down year for Jim Johnson merged Saturday night at Camden Yards, and the result, a 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, was downright ugly.
Gray pitched four strong innings before losing his command in the fifth and sixth, giving up a season-worst five earned runs. The last of those came when he exited the game with a man on base, and Johnson's second pitch was hit for a two-run homer.
It seemed to be just one of those games for Gray, who came into the game 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his last seven starts. He had thrown a minimum of six innings in each of his first 12 starts, but he was out of this one after 51/3 innings.
He matched his season high with four walks, two of which scored, and for which Gray had no explanation.
"I don't know why I'm getting behind hitters," Gray said. "The last few games I don't think I've been throwing enough strikes, point blank. When you put four guys on, it only takes one hit in one inning (to hurt you)."
Catcher Stephen Vogt suggested it was a matter of Gray's delivery being out of whack.
"He got out of his mechanics a little bit tonight," Vogt said. "He was falling real bad to the first base side and kind of pulling off his pitches. He's aware of what went wrong and will make an adjustment and he'll be right back on it five days from now."
Gray's overall numbers (6-2, 2.83) are so good that the expectations have been ratcheted up too high for anyone to reach them all the time.
"He's 24 years old still," Vogt said. "He's going to get right back on track. The thing is, when it goes bad for Sonny, it's still pretty good. He just lost his command there for a little while in the middle innings tonight. It kind of got him tonight and we weren't able to recover offensively.
"He'll be right back at it. He's a fighter He's a perfectionist. He's going to want to be that much better next time."
The same is true for Johnson, but unlike Gray, his body of work for this season isn't good overall, so much so that the A's are willing to trade the man they thought was going to be their closer when the season began. Talks have taken place and, sources say, continue to take place.
Johnson had earned some boos with a 14.04 ERA at the Coliseum, but he'd been fairly effective everywhere else before Saturday with a 3-0 record and a 1.84 ERA on the road.
His new home wasn't much kinder to him. He entered in the sixth inning with one out and one on. David Lough, who came into the game with a .184 average and just one homer, jumped on Johnson's second pitch and rode it way out of Camden Yards to give the Orioles their fifth and sixth runs.
"He got a sinker that didn't sink away for him," manager Bob Melvin said. "It went down, it just kind of came toward the barrel (of Lough's bat). It was middle-in, too."
"And it's not a role he's used to, either. He's used to coming into games with lots of adrenaline late in games, so this is different for him. It's tough."
It's tough for Melvin to keep sending Johnson and his 6.46 ERA into games. But when Oakland is down three runs, those will be Johnson's opportunities unless he reverts to form or is pitching somewhere else.
--The A's first run came on a solo homer from Coco Crisp, who later singled and doubled. His double set up the A's last two runs on a pinch-hit single by Kyle Blanks. But Crisp's neck is still bothering him. He won't start Sunday's series finale, and he will miss one of the three games against the Angels, probably Tuesday when the A's face lefty Tyler Skaggs.
--Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who objected to Josh Donaldson putting a tag on him in the third inning to the point where both benches emptied, said he hasn't changed his mind about the appropriateness of the play. That being said, Machado said it was time to turn the page. "You have to forget about it and come back tomorrow," he said.
--Donaldson struck out in all four of his plate trips. That's the first time that's happened in his big league career.
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