Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics Falls Flat Against the Twins

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96. 5. 2. Final. 0

After tossing a two-hit complete game shutout against the Cleveland Indians last Sunday, and being named to his first-career All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Sonny Gray looked anything but sharp opposing the homer-happy Minnesota Twins on a cool Friday night at the O.Co Coliseum. A lead-off home run from Brian Dozier in the bottom of the first that was followed by a Trevor Plouffe grand slam in the sixth insured Minnesota’s 50th win of the season.

Highlights

The Oakland Athletics managed to muster enough offense against Corey Kluber and the Tribe thanks to a towering two-run shot from All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt. However, the Athletics bats have yet to make their cross-country trip to the East Bay as Ervin Santana pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball before being relieved by Brian Duensing in the eighth with runners on the corners. Before Gray could even settle in, Dozier launched his 20th home run of the campaign when he connected on a 2-2 four-seamed fastball that was conveniently left up in the strike zone and quickly put the A’s behind 1-0 heading into the bottom half of the first.

The Athletics had their opportunity to take advantage of Santana in the bottom of the third when Brett Lawrie began the inning by reaching on a fielding error by Dozier. Marcus Semien kept the ball rolling with one away as he lined a sharp single up the middle, putting a runner in scoring position for the always dependable Vogt. Vogt didn’t disappoint as he snuck an off-speed pitch out of the reach of Dozier — setting ducks on the pond for Ben Zobrist. After taking a first-pitch fastball, Zobrist managed to take a strike before popping up to first-baseman Joe Mauer in foul territory, which ultimately concluded any threat in the frame.

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For the most part, this game had “pitchers duel” written all over it as the bottom of the fifth inning came to a close in one hour and fifteen minutes. Nonetheless, the A’s looked poised to get back into this game until Gray took the mound in the sixth and surrendered a lead off walk to Dozier. Struggling to locate the strike zone, Torii Hunter patiently worked a 3-1 and was ultimately rewarded with a sharp single to left field, putting runners on first and second. After surrendering another walk to Miguel Sano, Plouffe feasted on a hanging slider from Gray for his 12th long ball of the season — a grand slam that barely made its way atop the out-of-town scoreboard.

Despite only making his third start of the 2015 season, Santana was superb for the Twins. He possesses a 6-2 record with a 2.12 ERA in 11 starts against the green and gold. Even when he was replaced in the bottom of the eighth, Minnesota’s bullpen didn’t skip a beat as they kept the shutout intact. The Athletics were late on the fastball and continuously rolled over on his off-speed pitches, especially the slider. If the A’s hope to salvage this season, they need to assemble a winning streak in the next week in a half; however, after a performance like tonight, who knows, Billy Beane might have begun wheeling-and-dealing  after this lack-luster ball game concluded tonight.

The Good

  • Prior to the All-Star break, the Oakland Athletics were coming off a successful series win against the Cleveland Indians. Despite being 10 games under .500, there appeared to be optimism that the A’s would kick off the second-half on a positive note. After rolling over on Friday, the A’s still have an opportunity to get things rolling and make a splash in the American League West considering that one team has yet to run away with the division.

The Bad

  • Oakland had several opportunities to capitalize offensively and, like many times before, squandered their chances when it mattered the most. By the end of the night, the A’s left a total of seven runners on-base and ultimately failed to get the big hit in clutch situations.

The Notable

  • Jesse Hahn was diagnosed with a forearm strain this week and is expected to be sidelined for at least a month. Concluding his PRP injection, Chris Bassitt will take his spot in the rotation. At this moment, it remains unclear as to whether or not Hahn will undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his major league career. However, if the A’s fall out of contention sooner rather than later, it might be in the best interest of the ball club to shut him down for the season.
  • Dozier’s lead off homer in the first inning padded his statistic of 12 lead off long balls in his major league career. It’s not endangering Rickey Henderson‘s record by any means, but it’s definitely something to keep a note of.
  • In his career, Billy Butler is batting .305 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in the second-half of his nine seasons in the show.

Up Next

The green and gold look to get back on track when Scott Kazmir (5-5, 2.49 ERA) takes the hill against Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.32 ERA) and the Twins. Tomorrow’s game is set to begin at 6:05 PM PT and for those of you making the trip to the Coliseum, plan to arrive early with comedian Kevin Hart set to take stage at the neighboring Oracle Arena.

Next: Oakland Athletics Franchise Four Revisited, Rearranged, and Revealed

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