Late-inning losses adding up to theme for '15

'They're tough, man,' A's starter Gray says after missing out on 13th win

Late-inning losses adding up to theme for '15

OAKLAND -- The A's late-inning losses continue to pile to new heights, as does the frustration that accompanies them.

A club aching for some mid-summer mojo was well on its way to a feel-good victory over the Rays in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday evening until its bullpen imploded again in a 5-4 loss, denying American League ERA leader Sonny Gray (2.10) of his 13th victory after eight innings of three-run ball.

"They're tough, man," Gray said. "We're going to have to figure something out, or it's going to be a long month here. We just gotta keep showing up and putting ourselves in good positions and hopefully start pulling some of these close ones off."

The bullpen owns 25 of the A's 71 losses this season, its work often overshadowing efforts elsewhere -- like Josh Phegley's two-hit, three-RBI night.

"That's been a little bit of a theme for us this year," manager Bob Melvin said. "We have played seven or eight good innings and end up losing games late. It's frustrating."

On the same day Sean Doolittle rejoined the A's, after spending all but two prior days of the season on the disabled list, Melvin -- who said he will give Doolittle "at least one outing where he's not closing" -- turned to switch-pitcher Pat Venditte for the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead in hand.

Venditte struck out Evan Longoria following a 10-pitch battle but threw each of his next four pitches for balls to Daniel Nava. His next batter, Logan Forsythe, doubled to center field to put runners at second and third for lefty Drew Pomeranz. Asdrubal Cabrera's ensuing two-run double put the Rays, who were 0-49 when trailing after eight innings, on top for good.

"That was a heck of a game by Sonny," Venditte said. "Especially with the late-inning losses we've been having this year, I wanted to go out and get it done for the guys but did not do my job tonight.

"Trying to throw strikes and get ahead and I didn't accomplish that at all. A four-pitch walk is unacceptable in that situation."

"He had a tough battle there with Longoria, and I felt like we had some momentum after that, and then it just seemed like he couldn't find the strike zone," catcher Josh Phegley said. "I know it's tough for him to switch arms and find the strike zone. I'm not going to make an excuse for him, but what he does on the mound does not look easy. Just a tough night all-around."

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