OAKLAND — As Cam Gallagher’s towering drive went sailing toward the left-field seats in the sixth inning on Monday night, Jharel Cotton stood atop the mound watching. The starter dipped his left shoulder, tilting to the side as if he were trying to will the ball foul.
Unfortunately for the struggling right-hander, it stayed fair. Gallagher, who entered the at bat with one hit in eight career at bats, had his first major league homer. Cotton had another ugly line.
The two-out grand slam for the Kansas City Royals rookie catcher turned what had been a 2-1 affair into a 6-1 game, spoiling Cotton and the Oakland A’s night.
“It’s frustrating because I couldn’t finish the inning,” Cotton said. “I wanted to get that guy out to give my team a chance and I just didn’t do that. He got a pitch to hit and he took advantage of it.”
In the 6-2 loss, Cotton surrendered six runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out a pair.
For Cotton, who remains winless dating back to June 23 and who has let in 15 earned runs in three August starts, the trouble began in the top of the first.
Eric Hosmer handed the guests a 1-0 advantage in the opening frame, grounding a run-scoring single to center.
“He got off to a little bit of a slow start then recovered pretty well,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Then he gets in a situation where he makes three good pitches and gets Gordon out and has to get one more out to get out of the inning and just couldn’t do it.”
— Karl Buscheck (@KarlBuscheck) August 15, 2017
Half an inning later, Ryon Healy briefly tied the game, driving in a run with a ground ball to third.
The Royals added a second run an inning later when Cotton uncorked a wild pitch to Gallagher, resulting in a walk for the backstop and allowing Alcides Escobar to race home.
The A’s wouldn’t score again until the sixth when Jake Junis hit Khris Davis with the base loaded, allowing Boog Powell to walk home.
“We just had a rough game all the way around,” Melvin said. “When we had opportunities, we didn’t come through with them. When we had a chance to get out of innings, we didn’t.”
A break for Cotton?
Asked if he needs a break, Cotton dismissed the idea.
“I want to continue to pitch, man,” Cotton said. “I love pitching. I want to go out there every five days and pitch for my team and I think I’ll get out of this funk just by pitching.”
Melvin hedged when asked about the same topic.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Melvin said. “Obviously, we want to challenge him and see how he’ll do. Like I said, he got off to a rough start and pitched really well in the middle innings and when he’s got the bases loaded, he’s got the chance to get out of it and makes a couple of pitches to get in a situation with two outs and he just couldn’t do it [and] the last hitter hits a grand slam off him.”