Sonny Gray has been one of the few bright spots for the Oakland Athletics during a difficult season, but even his performance has slipped recently.
He'll look to snap out of his funk as the A's try to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat when they host the fading San Francisco Giants on Friday night.
Oakland (64-89) has fallen 25 games under .500 for the first time since 1997 and is on the brink of its first 90-loss season since that same year, a resoundingly disappointing way to end a run a three straight playoff appearances.
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The A's fell 8-1 on Thursday as Texas completed a three-game sweep, dealing Oakland its ninth loss in its last 11 at home.
Gray (13-7, 2.72 ERA) had been shining through all the disappointment. He led the AL with a 2.13 ERA after his outing Aug. 28, but it has gone up considerably over his last four starts.
The right-hander has especially struggled over his last two, allowing a season-high seven runs over three innings in a loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 14 before giving up five in 5 1-3 of Saturday's loss at Houston.
Gray has surrendered at least five runs in three of his last four after doing so twice in his first 26 outings.
"I feel fine," Gray said. "It's command. Look at it, I've walked eight guys in the last eight innings, that's an easy answer. You just have to throw more strikes, attack better and not give away bases like that."
Gray was stingy in his only career start against the Giants, though, as he struck out eight over seven innings of a 6-1 victory July 8, 2014. San Francisco went on to win its third World Series in five years last season, but its hopes of getting back to the postseason look bleak.
The Giants (79-73) have lost four of six after falling 5-4 to San Diego on Thursday and are eight games behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers with 10 to play.
Worse news is that San Francisco is closer in the division race than in the wild-card pursuit, as a loss or a Chicago Cubs victory would end its very faint hopes for the NL's final playoff spot. Given those circumstances, manager Bruce Bochy said he "would be shocked" if key players like Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Nori Aoki and Gregor Blanco played again this season because of injuries.
Brandon Crawford homered Thursday and is 5 for 10 over his last three, and rookie Matt Duffy had three hits.
The Giants look to bounce back behind Mike Leake (10-9, 3.81), who also has struggled lately. He has a 7.36 ERA over his last three outings and is coming off his shortest start in nearly two years after allowing three runs and eight hits in just three innings of Saturday's 6-0 loss to Arizona.
The right-hander hasn't faced Oakland in more than five years, and the only Athletic with more than three at-bats off Leake is the injured Ike Davis.
San Francisco swept a three-game series between the clubs at home from July 24-26, but the A's have won the last five matchups in Oakland.