ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Most of the A’s had to be happy to finally head home after a long nine-game road trip.
Danny Valencia probably wanted a little more time at Tropicana Field.
The A’s third baseman enjoyed a huge game Sunday, hitting three homers to carry the A’s to a 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. That made it five homers total in the weekend series for Valencia, a Florida native who homered twice in Friday’s series opener.
His go-ahead two-run shot was the first pitch he saw from Rays reliever Steve Geltz, with the A’s trailing 6-5 in the ninth and down to their last out. It came right after Billy Burns doubled to keep Oakland’s hopes alive.
That salvaged a positive ending to a road trip that finished 3-6 for the A’s. It also helped make up for yet another rough start for No. 1 starter Sonny Gray. The right-hander surrendered a career-high tying three home runs Sunday, and he’s now allowed 21 earned runs over his past 18 1/3 innings spanning four starts (10.31 ERA).
Gray immediately got things started on the wrong foot, giving up a homer to Brandon Guyer on his first batter of the game. Guyer would get him again in the second with a three-run shot and finished with five RBI. Gray went 5 2/3 innings, struck out four and walked two. But although just three of the six runs he gave up were earned, Sunday’s outing was another example that things simply are not right with the 2015 Cy Young finalist. And the reasons for it remain a mystery.
But in the end Sunday, Valencia rode to the rescue, finishing with five RBI and registering the A’s first three-homer game since Josh Reddick did it Aug. 9, 2013 at Toronto.
The A’s homered four times overall, with Chris Coghlan adding a pinch-hit blast.
Starting pitching report:
Most notable about the homers Gray allowed were the situations in which they came. Guyer led off the bottom of the first by going deep to left-center, right after Valencia had put the A’s ahead in the top half with a homer of his own. In the second, second baseman Tyler Ladendorf committed an error while charging a grounder that could have been the third out. On the very next pitch, Gray gave up another homer to Guyer, this one a three-run blast that gave the Rays a 4-1 lead. The A’s rallied for three runs in the fifth to trim their deficit to 5-4, but Gray promptly allowed Evan Longoria’s solo shot on the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-4. Gray knew it was out, not even turning his head toward the outfield to watch it.
Gray now has surrendered five homers on the road, equaling the number he gave up all of last season. He’s allowed seven homers over his past five starts.
Ryan Dull came on in relief of Gray and struck out all four batters he faced over 1 1/3 innings. John Axford and Ryan Madson also turned in stellar work, with Madson notching his 10th save in as many opportunties.
At the plate:
What a series it was for Valencia, who had his parents in town to watch the series. The A’s notched 12 hits total, and Coghlan’s pinch-hit blast was the A’s first pinch hit homer since John Jaso hit one June 22, 2014.
In the field:
Ladendorf drew the start at second with Jed Lowrie on the DL and Coghlan getting a day off. Considered an excellent infield defender, his error in the second was a costly one as it kept the inning alive for Guyer’s three-run shot.
The announced crowd was 19,545.
The A’s get their first look at the Texas Rangers to begin a seven-game homestand Monday. In the opener, Sean Manaea (0-1, 11.37) matches up with Derek Holland (3-2, 6.09) in a 7:05 p.m. game. Eric Surkamp (0-3, 6.55) goes against Cole Hamels (4-0, 2.95) in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game. On Wednesday, it’s Rich Hill (5-3, 2.68) vs. Martin Perez (1-3, 3.23) at 12:35 p.m. The A’s face lefties in all three games.