The Oakland Athletics are tired of squandering chances, especially in late September and on a night Sonny Gray more than earned a positive result.
Gordon Beckham homered for the division champion Los Angeles Angels, who dropped the A’s into a tie for the top AL wild card with a 2-0 win Tuesday night.
Gray fanned Mike Trout three times among his career-best 12 strikeouts, one month to the day after Jon Lester struck out the Angels slugger three times at the Coliseum. But Gray had nothing to show for it as Oakland was shut out for the seventh time since Aug. 1.
“It’s one of the major themes of the last month, month and a half,” left fielder Sam Fuld said. “We’ve had opportunities. You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Oakland and Kansas City are tied for the two wild-card spots at 86-71, three games ahead of Seattle with five to play. The Royals beat Cleveland 7-1 earlier Tuesday night and won the season series with the Athletics 5-2, giving Kansas City the tiebreaker.
That means if the Royals and A’s win the wild cards and finish with identical records, Kansas City would host their one-game playoff next Tuesday.
Wade LeBlanc (1-1) ran his scoreless stretch to 15 2-3 innings over his last six outings, allowing five hits in 5 1-3 innings for the AL West champions. LeBlanc is the second of three straight left-handers the Angels are throwing in this series.
He is making his case to be on the postseason roster.
“Any time players perform well, it’s going to help you to be stronger and help you make decisions,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We haven’t made any decisions yet but these are two strong starts from Wade.”
Gray (13-10) is 0-3 in his last six starts. The right-hander has one victory in 11 starts since a 5-0 July that earned him AL pitcher of the month honors.
Of Trout’s 13 games with three or more strikeouts, three are against the A’s. Gray struck out eight of the first 11 batters he faced.
“That was terrific,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He was up for it today. You could see when he came in the dugout there was a look in his eye he was going to get after it.”
The A’s had a chance to tie the game in the fifth after Josh Reddick’s one-out double. Eric Sogard grounded out two batters later on an off-balance throw by second baseman Howie Kendrick that just beat Sogard, who slid headfirst.
Los Angeles went ahead in the second on an unearned run when Erick Aybar scored from third during a rundown.Efren Navarro was caught stealing at second on a 2-6-3-4 double play after Hank Conger struck out swinging.
Beckham hit his ninth homer leading off the sixth.
“We lost. Whatever I did wasn’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter,” Gray said.
The A’s loaded the bases in the eighth against Joe Smith, who retired Stephen Vogt on a shallow fly to right to escape unscathed. Huston Street finished the three-hit shutout for his 16th save with the Angels and 40th overall.
“I left a small village of runners in scoring position,” Vogt said.
Oakland was shut down after scoring 16 runs over its previous two games. That outburst came after the A’s totaled only 19 runs in their previous 10 contests.
“We had some opportunities, and one or two more hits and it’s a different game,” Melvin said.
Angels: Jered Weaver (18-8) had the flu for a second straight day and left the ballpark. Scioscia said there is flexibility to push Weaver’s next start from Friday to Saturday if the right-hander needs an extra day. … 3B David Freese was held out of the lineup after he experienced tightness in his upper back earlier in the day. … OF Josh Hamilton hit off a tee for the second straight day. He missed his 18th game in 19 because of pain in his upper body. … Scioscia said RHP Matt Shoemaker is “symptom-free” from a strained left oblique but won’t pitch again in theregular season. He still needs to throw off a mound. “You don’t want to jump over a step and risk setting yourself back,” Scioscia said.
Athletics: C Derek Norris was the DH for a second straight day after requiring an injection in his troublesome shoulder. He is slated to start Wednesday’s series finale.
Angels: LHP Hector Santiago (5-9, 3.98 ERA) has pitched two or fewer innings in each of his past two starts – both losses – after winning his previous three. He had no-decisions with a 1.00 ERA in his first three outings against Oakland this season.
Athletics: Lester (16-10, 2.41) looks to improve on his 3-1 September record and beat the Angels for the first time in three starts this year.