OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray was visibly upset after giving up seven runs and getting chased from the game in the fifth inning. That he had allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his previous six starts didn't seem to make Wednesday's dud easier to swallow.
That's a good thing. An odd silver lining, no doubt, but the A's had better be upset about these mediocre performances they've been putting together.
The owners of the best record in the majors should be feeling the pressure. They are the hunted. And with the Los Angeles Angels nipping at their heels, the A's are dud or two away from slumming it in a wild-card playoff.
They certainly can't afford too many outings like they got from Gray in the 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Definitely not when the A's bats are as cold as they've been.
"When you put your team in a hole like that, it's a lot more pressure on the offense," Gray said, swallowing his frustration to labor through postgame questions, "and it's kind of hard to climb out. Tough to do especially when the other team is scoring so many runs."
Gray didn't scream and yell. Didn't punch anything or flip a chair. But he talked through his teeth as if he were angry and intentionally left his answers short.
He gave up a career-high 10 hits and wasn't the least bit pacified by the it-happens-in-a-long season excuse. Jeff Samardzija loves that about his new teammate. He said since every pitch, every run, ever game counts, it should burn to let one get away.
"He's a competitor," Samardzija said. "The more I get to know him, the more I get to watch him, one thing makes him tick -- competing."
The A's are in a dogfight and they need their starting pitching to be every bit as potent as prognosticated. And they haven't been lately.
In the past eight games, the A's vaunted starting pitching is 2-5 with a 5.77 ERA. The A's have lost five of their past nine games and are 3-3 so far on this 10-game homestand.
Gray had been the sure thing before Wednesday. He was named American League Pitcher of the Month for July after going 5-0 with a 1.03 ERA. Even in his last start, a loss, he gave up just one run and three hits in seven innings.
He's had some scares here and there, some slow starts. But Gray was always able to survive until he found a groove.
Wednesday, he took the mound with a chance to sweep Tampa Bay and keep pace above the Angels. This could've been a mojo-shifter game. But Gray didn't have it.
"Thought I was close," Gray said. "Just didn't have that extra today."
He was hit hard early and eventually fell apart. In the fourth inning, he gave up a two-run homer to Kevin Kiermaier. That proved to be the decisive blow as Gray was never the same after that. He got four more outs after that home run, giving up five more singles before being pulled.
Ordinarily, he gets one or two of those. But the A's have such little room for error, stinkers by Gray hurt more.
That's why it's good that he's mad. It's a sign he knows he can't afford such slip-ups.