On Friday night, after witnessing another dismal performance from Purcey, this time sending Toronto on its way to an 8-5 loss to Oakland, Gaston could only throw his hands in the air and shrug. Gaston doesn't know what specifically is behind Purcey's struggles, but the manager did at least offer up a theory.
"I think David sometimes loses concentration," Gaston said. "He can go out and pitch lights-out one inning, and the next inning it's gone. To me, that's concentration. He has to focus a little bit more out there."
Adding to Gaston's frustration was that the Blue Jays (8-4) provided Purcey with an early four-run lead. Shortstop Marco Scutaro opened the first inning with a home run, and second baseman Aaron Hill added a two-run shot in the third. Following a two-run double from Kevin Millar, Toronto had a 5-1 advantage through three frames.
That's when things fell apart for Purcey.
Between the first and fourth innings, Purcey had worked through 12 consecutive A's hitters without allowing a hit. With one out in the fourth, the left-hander yielded back-to-back singles to Jack Cust and Kurt Suzuki before walking Mark Ellis to load the bases for Oakland. Three pitches later, Bobby Crosby drilled a pitch deep to center for a three-run triple.
The walk to Ellis was the second free pass that turned into a run for the A's (5-5). Purcey also opened the game by walking Ryan Sweeney, and the Oakland center fielder later scored on a groundout.
In all, Purcey issued four walks in his 3 2/3 innings, giving him 10 free passes allowed over his past 8 1/3 frames.
"It's just hard to give teams that many outs," Gaston said. "To me, a walk is just like giving an out away. When you do that, you're just going to have the problem that he had out there tonight, and they'll come back to beat you every time.
"Walks are just something that you can get around. As a manager, you'd rather see guys hit the ball. I'd rather see a guy get a base hit than watch him walk."
Crosby's bases-clearing tripe cut Toronto's lead to 5-4. A few minutes later, an unfortunate wild pitch allowed Oakland's third baseman to sprint across the plate to knot the score, 5-5.
On the play, Jays catcher Michael Barrett sprinted after the ball as it skipped toward the first-base dugout. Barrett retrieved the baseball and relayed it to Purcey at home, but the catcher slipped and fell hard on his right side while making the play. Rolling in obvious pain, Barrett clutched at his right shoulder and was later taken to a local hospital to undergo X-rays on his arm.
After Barrett was helped off the field, Gaston strolled out to the mound and pulled Purcey from the game.
"I didn't know what happened," said Purcey, referring to Barrett's injury. "I turned around, and I saw him on the ground. I felt so bad. Hopefully, he's OK. We'll be praying for him."
Walks also came back to haunt the Jays after Purcey exited.
In the seventh inning, Toronto reliever Brandon League handed a free pass to the first hitter he faced, A's shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and later allowed a run-scoring double to Matt Holliday to put the Jays behind, 6-5. The A's tacked on another two runs against League in the eighth.
Purcey had a simple explanation for what happened to him on the mound.
"I just didn't go out there and throw strikes," said Purcey, who gave up four hits in the no-decision. "It's been on and off the whole time out there -- last start and this start. I'm just not hitting on my pitches the way I should. I'm going to go out there and work on it and continue to take the positives out of things.
"The positive thing is the offense put up runs. I'm just going to try to get myself better so I can help the team."
Purcey said he hasn't been consistent with his release point. The 26-year-old southpaw noted that he has felt good using his slider, and that his curveball has been a strong option in spurts, but his fastball command hasn't been there.
It was a similar story on Sunday, when Purcey struck out 10 and walked six in a road loss to the Indians. In that outing, the lefty lasted just 4 2/3 innings, during which he was overpowering for short stretches and lost in others.
Gaston is just hoping Purcey doesn't lose his confidence.
"He's had two bad outings," Gaston said. "So, I'm pretty sure his confidence can't be too good right now. That's something you've got to get over. You have to pick yourself up and go out and do better next time. You have to put this night behind you."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less