A’s fall against Tampa Bay, fail to gain ground

Umpiring was in the spotlight on Saturday at Tropicana Field, and it certainly didn’t do the Oakland Athletics any favors in a 7-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the score tied in the top of the eighth and bases loaded, home plate umpire Larry Vanover rung up Marcus Semien on an outside pitch for the second out of the inning to keep the score tied at 4-4.

In the bottom of the eighth, a small strike zone led to a pair of walks to bring up Rays rookie Jake Bauers, who got an 0-2 pitch from Jeurys Familia and pounded it into the seats to give Tampa Bay (81-66) a 7-4 lead.

Had Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe been called out on close pitches, Bauers would have only hit a solo shot and Matt Chapman’s ninth-inning homer would have evened the score. Instead, it was just his third hit of the game.

Chapman was at the plate when Mark Canha scored the tying run on a Nick Ciuffo passed ball in the top of the seventh to bring Oakland (90-59) even after Canha had doubled to get the A’s within a run.

Neither team’s starting openers — openers Ryne Stanek and Liam Hendriks — allowed a run, but Dean Kiekhefer, brought in to pitch the second inning against a lefty-heavy part of the Rays order, allowed an infield hit to Kevin Kiermaier and a two-run homer to Lowe.

Jed Lowrie got a run back in the fourth with an RBI single off Yonny Chirinos, but Khris Davis struck out with men on the corners — one of his three strikeouts on the day — and Matt Olson grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Olson did redeem himself against Chirinos in the sixth, tying the game with a solo shot to win a nine-pitch battle after falling in an 0-2 hole.

Chris Bassitt was the “bulk” pitcher for the A’s, and he left in the sixth after issuing a leadoff walk to Wendle. Yusmeiro Petit came in and quickly allowed a go-ahead triple to Kiermaier and a Bauers sac fly. He got off the hook as the A’s tied it in the seventh, and Fernando Rodney held down the fort in the bottom half, but questionable calls and a bad 0-2 pitch by Familia doomed the A’s.

Bob Melvin was ejected in the middle of the eighth inning, arguing Semien’s strikeout.

The loss kept the A’s from gaining a game on the New York Yankees, who lost 8-7 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

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