As Gray struggles, nothing strikes wouldn't cure

Pitcher and Melvin say A's ace is not tired, despite second straight subpar outing

As Gray struggles, nothing strikes wouldn't cure

HOUSTON -- After Sonny Gray's second consecutive subpar start, Athletics manager Bob Melvin was insistent his ace, who surpassed the 200-inning mark in Saturday's 10-6 loss to the Astros, isn't tired.

Instead, both he and Gray asserted the problem is much more simple.

"Throw more strikes," Gray said.

Gray struggled mightily with his command Saturday, issuing four walks -- including three in a 39-pitch first inning -- and throwing just 55 of his 101 total pitches for strikes. He worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on eight hits and those four walks, fanning two. If not for three double plays in the first five innings, the line might've been worse.

The outing mirrored his last start, an 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Monday, when he lasted a career-low three innings and gave up a career-high seven earned runs to go along with four walks, throwing just 44 of his 75 pitches for strikes.

"I feel fine," Gray said. "It's command. Look at it, I've walked eight guys in the last eight innings, that's an easy answer. You just have to throw more strikes, attack better and not give away bases like that."

Though just one of Gray's four walks came around to score on Saturday, his command issues were evident from the start, going to three-ball counts on seven of the first nine hitters he faced.

He steadied, though, to keep the Astros off the scoreboard until exiting with one out in the fifth, dodging baserunners in every inning as his offense chipped away at the early deficit he'd spotted it.

"He seemed to recover enough to get us deeper in the game, but obviously in the sixth they strung a few hits together and it was time to go get him," Melvin said. "Sometimes through the course of the year you go through stretches where you struggle some. Whether it's late in the year [or] he's a bit tired, probably has something to do with it, but you're not going to be perfect through the course of the season."

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.