(Sonny Gray pitching early in the game on Friday night – Photo by Jason Schott)
Just as it looked like Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray was turning a corner, with two strong starts against Houston and Cleveland, he took a major step back on Friday night against his old team, the Oakland A’s.
After retiring Oakland in order in the top of the first, Oakland had no trouble with Gray after that.
Khris Davis led off the bottom of the second with a blast to deep right that cleared the Yankee bullpen to make it 1-0 Oakland.
After a Matt Olson single, Matt Chapman hit a blast to dead center to the right of the Oakland bullpen to make it 3-0.
It continued in the top of the third, as Marcus Semien and Matt Joyce led off with singles, and Jed Lowrie singled home Semien to make it 4-0 A’s.
The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the third, as rookie sensation Gleyber Torres launched a blast for his third home run of the season.
Oakland got that run right back, as Mark Canha led off the fourth with a double and came in on a fielder’s choice on a hit by Semien to make it 5-1.
That was all Gray would give up, as he was pulled after five inning, having allowed five runs (all earned) on nine hits, two homers, three walks, and two strikeouts.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Gray after the game, “I thought his stuff was pretty good actually. You know, the three-run inning there, just made mistakes with two strikes. I think three of the first four hits, two strikes on a guy, hung a breaking ball, fastball right there. I thought stuff-wise was okay, you know, just had a hard time putting guys away after that. Glad that he was able to battle through five. I think early in the season, that was where he was really struggling when he didn’t necessarily have it.”
This outing is not a good sign for Gray, as it appeared that he was solved with Andrew Romine basically becoming his personal catcher.
Boone made clear that he has no timetable on this arrangement, and that it really has only happened due to other reasons.
It is likely Romine would have caught this one after Gary Sanchez played three straight against Boston and a day game on Saturday no matter who the pitcher was.
Back to the game: The Yankees did battle back, as Aaron Judge launched his 10th home run of the season, a three-run shot, to cut Oakland’s lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth.
Oakland got one of them back in the sixth, as Jed Lowrie launched a solo shot just inside the right field foul pole to make it 6-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Oakland reliever Lou Trivino walked Judge with the bases loaded to force in a run and make it 6-5.
With one out and the bases still loaded, Oakland turned to Yusmeiro Petit, and he got Didi Gregorius to pop out to right field and Giancarlo Stanton to pop out to second to escape without further damage.
With Hale still in for the Yankees in the eighth, Matt Joyce hit a solo shot to give Oakland an insurance run, making it 7-5.
Petit stayed in for the bottom of the eighth and allowed a one-out single to Neil Walker before getting Miguel Andujar to pop to center field for the second out, and that was all for him.
Just as Cleveland did Sunday and Boston did Wednesday, Oakland turned to their closer Blake Treinen in the eighth, and he got Sanchez (who pinch-hit for Romine) to strike out to close the inning.
The Yankees turned to David Robertson in the ninth, and after he walked two and allowed Dustin Fowler to reach on a fielder’s choice, he gave up a double down the left field line to Semien that cleared the bases to make it 10-5 Oakland.
Treinen stayed on for the ninth, and had no trouble, getting Judge to hit into a double play to end it.
Gray took the loss for the Yankees, dropping to 2-3 on the season, and saw his ERA jumped 39 points to 6.39.
Kendall Graverman earned the win for Oakland, his first of the season, as he improved his record to 1-5 and lowered his ERA from 8.89 to 7.60. He went six innings, and allowed four runs (just one earned) on three hits and two walks, with four strikeouts.
This was a statement win for Oakland, who got back to .500 at 19-19, as they proved that a team can mix and match against the Yankees late and eke out a victory at The Stadium.
Where Cleveland and Boston turning to their closers in the eighth inning felt like panic moves which turned out dismally for them, with Oakland, their Manager Bob Melvin got all he could out of Petit, who went 1 1/3 innings, and got the same out of Treinen.
The Yankees have now dropped two in a row after winning their previous eight games amidst their historic 17-1 stretch.
They are now 26-10, and they remain tied with Boston for the best record in baseball and the American League East after the Red Sox lost in 12 innings in Toronto.
Dustin Fowler: A Yankee Prospect Returns
One of the prospects the Yankees traded to Oakland last July for Gray was outfielder Dustin Fowler.
Fowler was known for suffering a knee injury in the first inning of the first game of his major league career in Chicago before he ever took an at-bat.
Some feared he would be like Moonlight Graham, the New York Giant who played one inning in the field but never got to bat, and was immortalized by Burt Lancaster in “Field of Dreams.”
Fowler was in the lineup on Friday night for Oakland, and he got his first major-league hit off Gray in the fourth inning.
How ironic that his first hit came against the guy he was traded for.
Fowler scored a run in the ninth inning, when he scored on Semien’s three-run double after reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Full credit to the Yankees fans for cheering Fowler every time he came up to bat.