A’s lead late only to lose again at Texas when their bullpen falters

May 14, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

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By Morris Phillips

Through six innings on Saturday night, all the ominous signs, as well as the positive developments for the A’s didn’t seem to matter too much. Instead, the only things that seemed pertinent were the A’s maintained a two-run lead, and presumptive ace Sonny Gray pitched as he always does at Arlington, Texas, confidently and effectively, likely the precursor to a seventh consecutive win for the starting pitcher against the Rangers at their ballpark.

Then Gray departed, having thrown a season-high 106 pitches, and the bullpen entered, with disastrous results.

Nomar Mazara’s two-run double capped the Rangers’ four-run seventh inning, and they went on to defeat the A’s, 6-5, the second consecutive night the A’s saw their bullpen implode despite being handed a late-inning lead.

The Rangers’ rally netted them a fifth consecutive win, while the A’s fell back into the AL West cellar, nine games off the pace of the division-leading Astros. While the A’s weren’t derailed by poor defense, or a lack of clutch hitting, their frequent issues thus far this season, they saw their injury-ravished bullpen undo a third, consecutive encouraging outing by Gray, who departed leading 4-2.

“That’s what we expect out of him,” manager Bob Melvin said of Gray. “That’s what he expects out of himself. He left in a tight game, a low-scoring game, and we had a lead.”

Ryan Dull came out of the bullpen, and allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach base, two via walk.  Liam Hendriks inherited Dull’s bases-loaded jam, and allowed a sharp single to Elvis Andrus through the left side of the infield.  Hendriks had retired Andrus in all 12 previous encounters between the two.

Mazara’s ringing double, hit just beyond the glove of retreating left fielder Khris Davis, came next, plating two more, and giving the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish.

Until that point, stranding runners on base was a Rangers’ problem, thanks to Gray, not one for the A’s.  Gray kept Texas batters frustrated by retiring nine of ten batters with runners in scoring position, only allowing an RBI single to Andrus, giving Texas a 1-0 in the third. Conversely, the A’s were 3 of 7 in those situations, and scored five runs, nice turnarounds for a club that ranks last in scoring in the American League, and last with runners in scoring position.

The A’s also got a 12th home run from club leader Yonder Alonso to narrow the Texas lead to 6-5 in the eighth. But in the ninth, Matt Bush earned his third save, striking out Trevor Plouffe and Bruce Maxwell, before retiring pinch hitter Stephen Vogt to end the game.

Kendall Graveman gets the ball on Sunday, entrusted with helping the A’s avoid a sweep.  Former Athletic A.J Griffin goes for Texas, looking for a career-best, fifth consecutive win. Griffin shut out the Padres in his most recent outing.

 

 

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