OAKLAND — In 118 plate appearances over the season and a half he was with the Oakland Athletics, Joey Wendle never hit a home run at the Oakland Coliseum. In 15 games there, he hit just .240.
On Tuesday, Wendle finally got that home run — a 406-footer to right — as the middle part of a back-to-back-to-back trick turned by the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the third. CJ Cron hit a two-iron 19-degree liner to left before Wendle, and Wilson Ramons snuck one over the right field out-of-town scoreboard after him.
All four runs for the Rays, in fact, came courtesy the home run — former A’s farmhand Daniel Robertson, too, homered in the top of the ninth off of reliever Ryan Dull — as the Oakland offense reached a nadir. The A’s had five hits in the 4-3 loss — two of those came in the ninth — and have now scored just five runs in the last 30 innings.
“We were better tonight, and [Tampa Bay starter Blake] Snell’s tough,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s throwing 98 and he’s got four pitches. Coming off a tough day, we’re not swinging the bats great, but then, we rallied at the end and had some really good at-bats.”
The A’s got two on with no outs in the ninth on a single by Matt Olson and a double by Stephen Piscotty. They both scored on RBI groundouts, but Marcus Semien grounded out to end the game.
Even with three errors by the Rays, most of the offense the A’s could muster came from Jed Lowrie, who had two of Oakland’s five hits.
Lowrie, who came into the night hitting .258 in the month of May after a scorching start, responded to the third-inning barrage with the A’s first hit of the night — an RBI double to cash in a throwing error by Robertson at short.
In a potential game-tying situation in the eighth, though, he came up short. After a leadoff walk to Semien, a broken bat flare to right by Matt Chapman led to a poor throw from Carlos Gomez, allowing both men to move into scoring position. Reliever Chaz Roe, though, struck out Lowrie and Mark Canha before getting Chad Pinder to ground to third.
Aside from the third, Oakland starter Daniel Gossett moved the ball well up and down in the zone, used both sides of the plate and showed good command over a four-pitch mix. It was enough to get him through five innings, but once again, the A’s offense couldn’t muster much punch, despite working Snell for 97 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, and the Rays playing largely out-of-sorts.
Snell got 16 swings and misses on the night, but was pulled with two outs in the sixth, after giving up just one unearned run.
Chapman turned in a stellar defensive play in the seventh, after he got a stumbling start while playing back on a slow roller by Gomez. The ball hopped over the third base bag, Chapman recovered, ranged into foul territory, picked the ball with a backhand and fired to first off his back leg for the first out. He also started a 5-3-6 double play that erased right fielder Carlos Gomez trying to go first-to-third in the fourth.
“There were a few of them today, but you don’t see that play very often,” Melvin said. “I think maybe I’ve seen [Manny] Machado make it.”
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