DETROIT — Sonny Gray’s control issues finally caught up with him.
Gray lasted only two innings in the shortest start of his big league career, and the Oakland Athletics lost 9-4 to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night. J.D. and Victor Martinez both homered for the Tigers.
“I’ve been out of the zone more than I’ve wanted early in the season, but until tonight, it hadn’t hurt me. I’ve had some close calls, but I’ve been able to get out of them,” Gray said. “Tonight, I didn’t have anything. I don’t remember a start like this, where every breaking ball I threw was awful and I couldn’t locate anything.”
Gray (3-2) allowed four runs, two hits and four walks, throwing 65 pitches. He’s now averaging 4.76 walks per nine innings. His career worst was 3.04 in 2014.
J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer in the second inning. Victor Martinez added a three-run shot of his own in the sixth. Manager Brad Ausmus shook up the lineup, moving J.D. Martinez from fifth to second in the batting order and swapping him with Justin Upton. Detroit responded with its highest-scoring game of the season.
“You only have so much at your beck and call as a manager, things you can do when an offense is struggling,” Ausmus said. “Not that it was a huge shock with the lineup change, but you hope it’s some type of shock to the lineup system that maybe has some positive effect.”
Justin Verlander (2-2) allowed three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Tigers, his third straight quality start since allowing seven runs against Pittsburgh on April 11.
Detroit broke through with four runs in the second. Nick Castellanos led off with a triple and scored on a one-out grounder by Anthony Gose. With his pitch count already mounting, Gray allowed J.D. Martinez’s homer to right-center field, which made it 4-0.
Manager Bob Melvin took Gray out after that inning.
“That’s our guy, and we were not going to take any chances with him,” Melvin said. “He looked OK in the first inning, but they put together a couple at-bats in the second and then he just lost the strike zone.”
Khris Davis hit a long solo homer in the fourth for Oakland. His drive cleared Al Kaline’s No. 6 on the brick wall beyond the bullpen in left-center and would have traveled 449 feet unimpeded, according to MLB’s Statcast.
J.D. Martinez drove in another run in the fourth with a sacrifice fly, and Victor Martinez’s homer made it 8-1.
Verlander struck out six and walked two. He had allowed only one run before the seventh, when he gave up consecutive doubles to start the inning and eventually left with one out. One of his runners came home after he exited.
Billy Butler doubled off Verlander in the seventh, but the Detroit right-hander retired him in his first two plate appearances. Butler is 35 for 87 (.402) against Verlander.