Trades aren’t won or lost in single games, or even single seasons, but as the seemingly never-ending troupe of A’s circled the bases around Sonny Gray and the Yankee Stadium faithful rained boos upon his head, the nagging questions about his acquisition came to the forefront.
It was the A’s after all, who traded Gray to the Yankees last season for a veritable king’s ransom in prospects. And on Friday, one of those prospects, Dustin Fowler — the kid who ruptured his patella tendon in his first inning of his first major-league game last year and was traded a month later — collected his first big-league hit against Gray in the fourth. Fowler, though, was neither the first nor the last to touch up Gray, who struggled with his control and execution en route to a 10-5 loss at Yankee Stadium.
Gray allowed five runs, nine hits and three walks in five innings. Friday’s start erased some of the good feelings behind his most recent two performances, which had been impressive. The A’s wound up hitting four home runs and three doubles and had 14 hits against Gray, David Hale and David Robertson.
“I felt good,” Gray said. “I just couldn’t put it together. I felt like my stuff was pretty good, but at the end of the day, they put five runs across the board in five innings . . . It definitely [expletive], but for me, it’s over with, and we’ve got to move on.”
Asked what the difference- maker was, given that he said he felt good, Gray offered a verbal shrug: “That’s the golden question, isn’t it?
The Yankees trailed 5-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but four RBIs by Aaron Judge drew them to within 6-5 in the seventh. Judge hit a three-run homer off Kendall Graveman with two outs in the fifth — an opposite-field blast that came off his bat at 111.1 mph — and drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, but with the bases loaded and one out, Didi Gregorius flied out to short rightfield and Giancarlo Stanton popped up.
Matt Joyce hit Oakland’s fourth homer in the eighth and Marcus Semien added a three-run double off Robertson in the ninth. The Yankees, who had won eight straight and 17 of 18, now have their first back-to-back losses since April 8 and 10.
It was Gray’s first time facing his old team. “It is a little unique, it’s a little odd” to face the team you came up with, Aaron Boone said before the game. “Especially initially. Hopefully, he can kind of compartmentalize it, but that’s part of being a big-leaguer, being able to deal with different things. Sometimes it’s a motivator and you can lock in even better.”
Not Friday. After a 14-pitch first inning, Gray gave up a leadoff homer by Khris Davis, who drove a 3-and-1 fastball into the bleachers in right. Matt Olson singled and Matt Chapman turned on an 0-and-2 fastball, driving it to left-center for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
Three straight singles by Semien, Joyce and Jed Lowrie to lead off the third plated another run and set off a round of boos for Gray. “I thought his stuff was pretty good, actually,” Boone said. “He just made some mistakes with two strikes . . . He just had a hard time putting some guys away. I’m glad he was able to battle through five [innings]. I think early in the season, that was where he was really struggling when he didn’t necessarily have it.”
The Yankees got one back in the third when Gleyber Torres rocketed Graveman’s 0-and-1 sinker into the centerfield side of the Oakland bullpen.
Gray, however, allowed a run in the fourth when Mark Canha led off with a double, Fowler singled and Semien hit into a forceout, as Miguel Andujar elected to throw to second when he had an easy out at the plate.
“We always feel like we can come back,” Judge said. “We just weren’t able to string a few hits together . . . When guys go out and compete that way [the way Graveman did], just have to tip your cap.”