Wildness from A's pitchers hurts in loss to Tribe

Wildness from A's pitchers hurts in loss to Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Since Sonny Gray's seven-inning performance in a series-opening win in New York on Tuesday, the A's have been forced to turn to an inconsistent bullpen in the sixth frame or earlier in each of their last three games, all losses.

Their most recent ended in a 5-1 decision in Cleveland, where two of their best pitchers of late -- starter Kendall Graveman and reliever Drew Pomeranz -- combined to issue three consecutive two-out walks in a four-run sixth that not only untied the game, but broke it open.

The A's offense didn't do them in any favors, either, collecting only five hits -- all in separate innings -- after totaling three in Thursday's loss to the Yankees. As a team, they're hitting .229 in their last 14 games, nine of them ending in losses.

In the same breath, they've run into excellent pitching performances in that span, emphasizing their own need to showcase the same.

Graveman had been superb of late, stringing together six straight starts of at least seven innings and two or fewer runs allowed, which was the longest such streak by a rookie pitcher in Oakland history. He carried a 16-inning scoreless streak into Friday's affair, snapped at 19 in the fourth inning when Yan Gomes hit an RBI double.

But Graveman was still pitching in a 1-1 game and expected to keep it that way with one aboard and two outs in the sixth inning. Instead, he allowed a base hit to Giovanny Urshela and walked Michael Bourn to load the bases for Pomeranz.

"Just because I don't want to walk somebody," Graveman said, "I'm not going to serve him a cookie so he can get a two-out RBI either."

Pomeranz may have been squeezed on a couple pitches, but was also noticeably missing on others with his curveball, walking his first two batters to allow Cleveland to go ahead.

Michael Brantley followed with a two-run single.

"He has such a big curveball that umpires that see curveballs consistently aren't seeing ones like his," catcher Josh Phegley said. "He has so much depth that they're coming in top of the zone, maybe borderline, and it's maybe tough for an umpire to pull the trigger when you see it so high."

Pomeranz had not allowed a run in his previous nine innings.

"That's our best lefty," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the guy we've been using for the big situations. But with the workload of [Fernando] Abad and [Eric] O'Flaherty the last two days, he was the guy you want in that situation. It's the first time in a while he hasn't come through for us."

The A's have needed 10 1/3 innings from their bullpen in the last three games, bringing to question, could a fresh arm be on the way?

"We'll just see," Melvin said. "We're finding a way to manage it. There probably will be a couple guys not available tomorrow, but we're managing it all right."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.