Sonny Gray failed to make it out of the fourth inning in New York’s 11-4 loss to the Angels at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night. Gray gave up a run in the first, two in the third, and two more in the fourth before being removed.
“I believe the stuff’s there,” Aaron Boone said if his right-hander, who did strike out seven but saw his ERA increase to 5.98. “It’s about finding that consistency. Again, commanding, especially that fastball that I thought was really just moving so much on him.”
After a tough start to the season, Gray had pitched better as of late, and pitched eight innings in Kansas City, giving up one run on four hits. But on Saturday, it was back to the struggles that have plagued him throughout the season.
“My stuff was good, for sure,” Gray said after the game. “I thought I commanded my two-seam well. I think it was my four-seam that was kind of, every time I threw it kind of lead back to the middle of the plate. Slider was good. Yeah, I think the stuff was good, just the results weren’t.”
After sporting a 7.71 ERA through five starts, Gray’s next four starts we’re better. There was a tough-luck loss in Houston, giving up two runs in six innings. Again giving up two runs in six innings in a win against the Indians. A lousy start against Oakland in which he gave up five runs in five innings, but then his stellar start against the Royals.
“Hopefully he can start to string something together because I feel like it’s real close, like we saw in his last start which was excellent,” Boone said. “Stuff-wise he backed that up again today but just not being able to command and locate his fastball kind of hurt him.”
The Yankees gave Gray a 4-1 lead through two innings, but it was 4-3 when Mike Trout came to he plate with two outs in the fourth and the tying run on third. Instead of waking Trout, who had already doubled twice, Gray pitched to him and surrendered a two-run homer.
Was there any thought to walking Trout?
“Thought, yeah,” Boone said. “But I just felt like at that point in the fourth inning, starting to turn the lineup over again, and if we walk him he’s probably on second, so we’re basically at that point, putting the go-ahead run on second, so not really.”
Trout doubled off the wall in left for an RBI in the first, and then doubled in the middle of a two-run rally in the third. He collected a career-high five hits on the night.
“He’s an unbelievable player, and I think he kind of showed that tonight,” Gray said. “He put some good swings on the ball and ultimately, that was the fourth he hit that homer, that was the icing on the cake.”
Gray spent most of the night pitching from the stretch. Zack Cozart singles to begin the first and third innings. Andrelton Simmons singled to lead off the second. And Kole Calhoun, who entered the night with a .160 batting average, walked to start the fourth.
“I don’t think I got a leadoff hitter out all night. That can make for a long game for a starter,” Gray said.
Luis Severino has pitched like a Cy Young candidate but is followed by question marks behind him in the rotation. Earned run averages aside, the Yankees could use longer outings from starters, as the bullpen has not looked like the dominant machine it was late last season. Tonight was already Gray’s third start of the season in which he failed to complete four innings.
“We definitely need to start getting a little more length out of those guys,” Boone said. “And I think just like they did when we got it rolling, a lot of the talk was about our offense and guys doing well, but when we got rolling really good against a lot of quality teams, it was really on the backs of the starting pitching.
And they were consistently giving us quality outings and we’ve hit a little bump in the road here this last time and a half through or so, but no reason for me to think they won’t turn it around.”
That’s nice, but if the back end of the rotation isn’t more consistent, it might be up to some outside help to turn it around.