BOSTON -- Jon Gray was cruising through the first half of the season and was one of the American League’s strongest starters through his first 12 outings.
Then came a blister in mid-June that forced a missed start. Ever since, things seem a bit off track for the Rangers’ right-hander, who picked up a fourth straight loss at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, 4-2, vs. the Red Sox.
“I competed really well,” Gray said after going six innings, allowing four runs (three earned), three walks and nine hits, many of the lighter variety. “I got a lot of soft contact, broken bats. Nothing wanted to go our way … it was rough.”
Boston center fielder Jarren Duran led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, stole second, then came around to score on a Justin Turner single with one out. A few batters later, with two outs and two on, Adam Duvall flailed at a Gray slider low and away and flared it into center field, dropping it between three players to score another run.
“I thought he had good stuff tonight, but some infield hits, the bloop hit in the first, that hurts,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He makes a pretty good pitch there, Duvall just got enough of it to have it fall in. Overall, I thought it was a good effort.”
In his first 12 starts this year, Gray was sensational, going 6-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 63 strikeouts. In his four outings since skipping a start, he is 0-3 with a 6.98 ERA and just 12 strikeouts. In Wednesday night’s game, the Texas hurler managed to only get two Boston batters out by way of the strikeout.
“I’m a strikeout pitcher and I didn’t strike anyone out,” said Gray. “Maybe two guys. [My] stuff is not sharp right now. I don’t feel good about the way I’m throwing it, but I feel good about the way I’m competing. I thought I was good enough to win. Hoping that means good luck is coming.”
The Sox would put up a run in each of the fifth and sixth innings, with the last being unearned after it snuck under the gloves of Nathaniel Lowe at first and Adolis García in right.
The Rangers did get a two-run homer from García, his 22nd of the year, sandwiched in between those Boston runs. Otherwise, Texas struggled to generate offense, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, missing a prime chance in the first inning when it failed to score with runners on second and third and only one out.
“We couldn’t get that one more hit just to keep things moving,” said Bochy. “Jonny threw OK.”
“We just fell behind on a couple of guys and they got some big hits with runners on,” said catcher Jonah Heim. “We didn’t. That’s the story of today. I thought Jon performed really well, made some good quality pitches and kept it close for us to give us a chance.”
Gray’s backstop was quick to pull the positive of his starter’s day to light, though Gray may be looking elsewhere following his final start before the All-Star break.
“When people aren’t squaring you up and hitting it around the yard, it’s a positive thing,” said Heim, who will be the AL’s starting catcher at the 2023 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday. “He made some quality pitches. It was just some bad luck today. Next time, we’ll right the ship and get him a 'W.'”
“Just not think about baseball for a few days,” Gray solemnly expressed. “This game, it’s a tough one.”