A's bullpen can't hold lead as chance to sweep goes by wayside
By Austin Laymance
ANAHEIM -- For six and a half innings on Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, everything was set up for the A's to complete a four-game sweep of the Angels and hand Sonny Gray his first win in over two months.
Gray had battled through six innings in his fifth start since missing two weeks to the disabled list with a strained right trapezius muscle, allowing two runs in the first and then buckling down to keep the Angels off the board.
Manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen in the seventh, Oakland leading, 6-2, confident his club could hold on for the win despite being down a few arms in the 'pen.
"When you have a 6-2 lead, you like to think you can finish it off," Melvin said.
The bullpen was unable to hold off the Angels, and the A's headed back to the Bay Area left to wonder what could have been.
"We just wasted a good effort by Sonny, a good strong start by him, a big day from Coco at the plate with that homer," said reliever John Axford, who allowed two runs in the eighth, which tied the game at 6. "A lot of good things wasted. But tomorrow just start over, start fresh."
Gray did well to make it through six innings on a day when he did not have his best stuff. He allowed two runs in the first inning and scattered six hits, striking out three against one walk.
"I didn't feel great, especially early in the game," he said. "But I was able to make some in-game adjustments and came away with an OK outing."
Instead of celebrating their first four-game sweep of the Angels since October 2001, Gray and his teammates could only search for positives after a three-game win streak came to a sudden halt.
"I think all four games we played well, with the exception of two or three innings," Gray said. "We had a good opportunity to take four, and unfortunately we weren't able to do that."
Gray has not earned a win since April 22. He's lost his last five decisions, a career-long streak. Sunday was his third no-decision in five starts since returning from the DL.
"Wins, they're hard to get," Gray said. "It's not like every time you go out there, but all you can do is continue to put your team in a good chance to win and that's what in my opinion a starting pitcher's job is, and if you keep doing that sooner or later it will turn around."
As Melvin put it, Gray "did his job."
It appeared the A's did not have Ryan Madson, Ryan Dull or Sean Doolittle available. The bullpen has been taxed recently, covering almost 14 innings in this series alone.
Fernando Rodriguez entered to open the bottom of the seventh, giving up a two-run homer to Trout with two outs as the Angels pulled within two, 6-4. Marte and Andrelton Simmons got to Axford for RBI singles in the eighth. Liam Hendriks gave up consecutive singles to begin the bottom of the ninth and issued a walk with one out, setting the stage for the Angels' fourth walk-off of the season.
"We feel like we're in good position," Melvin said of turning things over the the bullpen in the seventh. "We have a couple guys who are unavailable in the bullpen, but felt like we still had the right guys to get it done."
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the A's on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.