Emilio Pagan had been absolutely phenomenal for the Tampa Bay Rays since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the offseason, entering Tuesday night’s reunion with his old mates with a 0.82 ERA and zero home runs allowed this season, after surrendering 13 a year ago.
Pagan’s former team greeted him with back-to-back homers on Tuesday night to take the lead in a game they would ultimately win 4-3.
Pagan allowed a two-run shot to Matt Olson to put Oakland (34-34) up 3-2 in the top of the sixth and left one over the plate to Khris Davis two pitches later for a solo shot to give the A’s a two-run lead.
From there, the A’s needed just one more strong inning from Mike Fiers — who allowed three earned runs or fewer for his ninth straight start — and then turned it over to the bullpen, with excellent frames by both Liam Hendriks and Lou Trivino. Then, former All-Star closer Blake Treinen once again struggled in the ninth.
It looked like the A’s were going to regret leaving two men on in the top of the ninth after Treinen issued a four-pitch walk to leadoff man Brandon Lowe and got behind Yandy Diaz 2-0 before battling back to strike the third baseman out. Ji-Man Choi then grounded out, but Willy Adames singled Lowe home and Kevin Kiermaier had a 3-1 count before hitting a weak bouncer to Olson at first.
As stressful as the bottom of the ninth was for Treinen, the prior two innings were a breeze for Hendriks, who struck out the side in the seventh, and Trivino, who got Guillermo Heredia to line out before striking out the top two hitters in the Rays lineup, Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham.
A solo homer to Pham in the first inning — a 458-foot no-doubter to left — was one of the only bumps in the road for Fiers, a Florida native who grew up on the other side of the state in the Miami suburbs. Tampa Bay (41-25) would get the first two men on in the second with a Choi walk and Adames single, but Kiermaier struck out and Mike Zunino fouled out. A wild pitch would advance both runners into scoring position with two outs, but Heredia would ground out softly to end the threat.
The only other run Fiers allowed was an easily avoidable one in the bottom of the fourth, as a two-out walk by Adames and Kiermaier single would put men on the corners. Kiermaier stole second, and a foolish throw by Josh Phegley allowed the Rays to execute the double steal and take a 2-0 lead, with Adames stealing home.
It wouldn’t last for long, as the A’s would get an unearned run in the top of the fifth off Jalen Beeks, the bulk pitcher/follower for the Rays after Ryne Stanek opened. Jurickson Profar led the fifth off with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a Chad Pinder single before Beeks got Phegley to ground into an inning-ending 1-4-3 double play. That was the last batter Beeks would face as Pagan went on to pitch the next two innings, ultimately taking the loss.
As for Stanek, who served as the opener for the 19th time on the season, he allowed a leadoff double to Marcus Semien but stranded him at third. Matt Chapman flew out, and though Semien moved up on a wild pitch, Stanek struck both Olson and Davis out.
With Yonny Chirinos set to pitch Wednesday’s matinee, there’s a chance the A’s see another opener in the rubber match.