OAKLAND (AP) — Sonny Gray’s teammates had just given him a nice boost with three runs in the bottom of the first after the Angels put up a four-spot in the top half.
Then a healthy Albert Pujols stepped in for a mighty swing in the second, hitting a two-run drive to make him one of four players with 10 35-homer seasons in their first 15 years, leading Los Angeles past the AL ERA leader and the Oakland Athletics 9-4 on Wednesday.
“I gave up four and then we came back and put up three and then to give up two back there in the second, it kind of took the air right out of us,” Gray said.
Josh Phegley hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first when the A’s pulled within 4-3, then Brett Lawrie hit his 15th leading off the eighth against reliever Joe Smith. Oakland has homered in a season-high nine straight games, hitting 12 total.
Pujols had an RBI single in the first inning, then hit his 555th homer in the second that tied Dominican Republic countryman Manny Ramirez for 14th on the all-time list. He joined Hall of Famers Willie Mays (10) and Mike Schmidt (11) and Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez (12) to have reached 35 home runs 10 or more times in their first 15 seasons.
“It’s something I don’t look for every year, I just try to be healthy and do whatever it takes to help our organization win,” Pujols said. “I got my legs back healthy and I felt great in spring training. ... Manny is probably one of the best right-handed hitters that ever played this game. He’s pretty amazing. To be on the same page with him and along the way with so many great hitters that I’ve passed this year, it’s awesome. It’s something I don’t try to get caught up too much. At the end of my career, I keep telling you guys for 15 years, I can look back and enjoy how blessed I’ve been.”
Andrew Heaney (6-2) struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in seven innings to end a six-start winless stretch. He had gone 0-2 since a victory against Texas on July 26.
Gray (12-7) lost his third straight decision, matching his career high with six earned runs allowed for the first time since exactly a year earlier on Sept. 2, 2014, at Seattle.
The All-Star righty gave up four straight singles to start the game. Gray’s wild pitch scored the first of four runs in the inning.
Gray lost to the Angels for the first time in five starts this season after beginning 3-0.
Billy Burns and Danny Valencia returned to the Oakland lineup after each sat Tuesday to rest their ailing bodies. Valencia hit an RBI single but the A’s still couldn’t give Gray enough support, a common pattern this year.
“They had a good approach on him, and sometimes your best guys are going to give up some hits,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Some of the pitches they hit were good pitches, a couple of them were up, but I didn’t think overall his stuff was too bad.”
David Murphy and David Freese singled home runs in the first inning and C.J. Cron had an RBI groundout as Gray fell behind. Gray dropped to 7-3 in 12 starts against the AL West this year and 19-8 for his career.
Angels: 1B/LF Efren Navarro was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to give Los Angeles more depth at first given Pujols was the DH for the second straight game. Navarro came in to pinch-run in the seventh and stayed in to play 1B beginning the eighth.
Athletics: RHP reliever Evan Scribner has a tear in his lat muscle behind his pitching shoulder and is done for the season. He had a similar injury in 2011. ... OF Sam Fuld (back spasms) missed a third straight game and could need a few more days. ... Oakland optioned RHP Cody Martin to Triple-A Nashville a day after taking a loss in his first career start.
Angels: Day off Thursday. RHP Garrett Richards (12-10) pitches the series opener Friday against Texas, trying to improve on his 2-0 mark and 1.84 ERA through his first two starts of the year against the Rangers.
Athletics: After Thursday’s day off, RHP Aaron Brooks will face Seattle for the first time Friday. He makes his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Saturday for his second big league stint of 2015.