OAKLAND — Sonny Gray’s season took another swerve off course Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Rays roughed him up for the second time this season.
Gray got tagged for seven runs in just five innings, including a four-run fifth in which the Rays strung five consecutive hits together in the decisive rally to pin a 7-3 defeat on the A’s.
Having won four of their past six, the A’s appear to have a chance to keep the good vibes rolling, hosting four games against the American League East’s cellar dwelling Rays. Gray took the mound buoyed by his last start, in which he snapped a 12-start winless streak.
But this season has included many glimmers of hope for the right-hander, signs where it seems Gray might be turning the corner. He simply hasn’t been able to build on them. Thursday’s loss felt like another back-to-the-drawing-board moment, as Gray (4-9) gave up seven runs for the fourth time this season.
In two games against Gray this season, the Rays have got to him for 13 earned runs over 10 2/3 inings.
Tim Beckham and Corey Dickerson each homered off him, making that 15 homers off him in 18 starts. Opponents went deep just 17 times in 31 starts all of last season.
Jake Smolinski’s three-run homer off Matt Moore (6-7) gave the A’s a 3-2 lead in the second. But the A’s, who didn’t advance a runner past second base in Wednesday’s shutout loss to Houston, mustered just three base runners after that second-inning rally.
Starting pitching report: Gray had issued four walks in each of his last two outings. He issued zero bases on balls Thursday but simply gave up too much hard contact. The Rays got to him for nine hits total.
One of the problem areas for Gray all season, strangely enough, has been handling the bottom third of the order. The opponents’ No. 8 hitter is hitting .463 (19-for-41) against Gray for the season, which is the highest mark in the majors. It surfaced again Thursday, as Beckham, the Rays’ eighth hitter, hit a 3-1 pitch for a solo shot in the second and singled in the fifth. Granted, Beckham is no easy out. His fifth-inning single gave him hits in eight consecutive at-bats, tying a Rays record. Gray is now 1-3 wit ha 7.04 ERA in four July starts.
Bullpen report: Zach Neal, promoted earlier in the day from Triple-A Nashville, tossed three scoreless innings to finish it out.
At the plate: Silence of the A’s after Smolinski’s homer, as Moore held them to four hits over seven innings. Oakland has now lost 10 of its past 11 games started by a lefty.
In the field: There’s always a bright side — the A’s snapped a season-high streak of seven consecutive games in which they’d made an error.
Attendance: The announced turnout was 14,412.
Up next: Like Moore, the Rays’ Friday starter, Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.39), is a heavily rumored trade candidate. He’ll oppose A’s rookie lefty Sean Manaea (3-5, 5.13) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game.