Baseball / Sports

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray works against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, August 1, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Royals blank Gray, A's, 1-0

OAKLAND--The positive vibe that permeated the Oakland A's locker room and dugout before the game as a result of the trades for pitcher Jon Lester and outfielders Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld didn't translate into hits and runs once the game started.

The only run of the game came courtesy of a Raul Ibanez home run off A's starter Sonny Gray in the fifth inning as the Kansas City Royals put a damper on an otherwise festive day for the A's with the 1-0 victory.

"One pitch; other than that he was terrific," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Gray, who allowed only three hits in seven innings without walking a batter.

The A's lost for the third time in four games and saw their lead over the Angels in the American League West reduced to one game.

You can bet that anytime the A's offense struggles, as it did Friday night, or the A's lose a close game, people are going to question the wisdom of trading away cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes.

To that, the A's no doubt will counter by saying to check back at the end of the season, when there's enough of a sample size to fairly assess the trade of Cespedes to Boston for Lester and Gomes, who didn't play Friday.

Melvin said the offensive ineptitude Friday is in keeping with a recent dry spell for his hitters, among other things.

"A lot of it had to do with their pitching tonight," Melvin said of the Royals.

Indeed, Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie and three relievers held the A's to five hits.

Ibanez's home run was all the Royals needed. He jumped on Gray's first pitch and deposited it over the fence in right-center field.

Gray said he didn't second-guess his pitch selection to Ibanez.

"Plenty of times, they swung at the first pitch and grounded out," Gray said. "He just got that one."

The A's had their chances Friday, though they were few. They just failed to deliver a timely hit. Twice they had Fuld on third base with one out. Both times, cleanup hitter Brandon Moss didn't get the job done, when an out could have plated a run.

"You want him up there anytime," Melvin said of Moss. "He hooked one foul. It looked like off the bat it was going to be a three-run home run. You always feel good when Brandon's up there in those situations."

Moss just missed a home run on the second of the aforementioned two at-bats. His deep drive had plenty of distance, but Moss pulled it foul.

Such is the fine line between success and failure in baseball. Moss has come through for the A's more times than not this season, as evidenced by his 23 home runs and 72 RBI.

"It was hooking off the bat," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "You could tell it was going to be foul."

--Gray went 5-0 with a 1.03 ERA in his five July starts. Overall, he had won six straight decisions over his last seven starts before Friday night's loss.

--Right fielder Josh Reddick collected three of Oakland's five hits. He is 13 for 35 since he was reinstated from the disabled list July 22.

--The A's released reliever Jim Johnson on Friday morning. He struggled from the outset and failed to display the form that he showed for the Orioles as their closer the past two seasons.

--Center fielder Coco Crisp recently received injections in an effort to lessen his neck pain. He didn't play Friday and is day-to-day, Melvin said.

"It made him feel a little bit better," Melvin said before the game.

With Crisp ailing and backup center fielder Craig Gentry on the disabled list, the A's lacked a true center fielder. Hence, trading for Fuld filled an immediate need, Melvin said.

"That was another really important trade," Melvin said. "That was a for-now, right-now trade, because we were playing some guys out of position in center field."

--Melvin hasn't spoken with Cespedes since the trade. He did reach out to him through interpreter Ariel Prieto.

Melvin said he "obviously, wished him the best."

In Cespedes, the Red Sox get one of the league's premier power hitters and someone that figures to have a field day with the short left-field wall in Fenway Park.

"That's probably a ballpark that suits him," Melvin said.

--The A's opted to stick with Jason Hammel in the starting rotation over Jesse Chavez, even though Hammel is 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA in his four starts with the A's.

"He certainly hasn't done anything to deserve that," Melvin said of Chavez being sent to the bullpen. "It's just the way our rotation is right now."

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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