OAKLAND — After opening their four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday with a dramatic comeback win in the ninth inning, Oakland fell short on Friday in a 5-3 loss.
The Athletics put plenty of runners on base — between 10 hits, a walk, and two Rays errors — but they couldn’t find enough timely hits to push them across. Two of their runs came on solo homers — by Matt Olson in the third inning and Ramon Laureano in the fourth — but otherwise Oakland went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The A’s also grounded into a pair of double plays and had two runners thrown out on the bases, while facing a parade of seven Tampa Bay pitchers.
“The Rays are tough,” said shortstop Marcus Semien, who went 0-for-5 to snap his 17-game hitting streak. “They never give you the same look. You face a bunch of different guys, I faced four guys tonight.”
Oakland threatened in the eighth inning, with a leadoff double by Matt Chapman and another double by Olson to drive him home, but the next three batters were all retired to cut the rally short. In the ninth inning, Stephen Piscotty made his way to second base, but was left stranded, with Semien making the final out.
“We never think we’re out of it,” said Semien. “Sometimes you don’t get it done, that doesn’t mean you get down in the dumps. Just move on to the next day.”
The final two outs of the game were recorded by former A’s reliever Emilio Pagan, who earned his fourth save of the year for the Rays. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.23, quite an improvement over the 4.35 mark he posted for Oakland last season. He also pitched against the A’s on Thursday, getting five crucial outs late in that game.
“He’s got a much better breaking ball,” said manager Bob Melvin of Pagan’s breakout success. “He’s always had a good fastball, but he’s got a much better breaking ball this year. He’s getting lefties out, he’s getting righties out, he’s throwing across his body and creating a little bit more deception. Give him credit, he’s having a really good year.”
The A’s came close to driving in another runner in the sixth inning. Khris Davis singled to lead off the frame, and one out later Jurickson Profar launched a double to the wall in left field. Davis tried to score from first base, but Rays left fielder Tommy Pham made a good throw to shortstop Willy Adames, who relayed it home to catcher Travis d’Arnaud to nab Davis at the last moment, with a nice effort by d’Arnaud to block off the plate.
“He’s being aggressive right there. When it happened, I was all for it too,” said Melvin of the decision to send Davis. “We’re trying to get some opportunities to score a run, where in that game we weren’t really getting too many opportunities.”
Tampa Bay’s first three runs came off Tanner Anderson, who lasted four innings and allowed seven hits and a walk. The right-hander, who coincidentally grew up in Tampa, was making just his third career major league start but his second against the Rays, after facing them at Tropicana Field on June 10 in his season debut.
“It’s definitely a learning process for me,” said Anderson. “I don’t think that I was as crisp as the first time around. They made some good adjustments, they hit some hard balls on the ground, and in the air as well. So for me, it’s just finding those times to see when they’re adjusting and then adjusting myself.”
Wei-Chung Wang relieved Anderson and tossed three strong innings, allowing just a hit and a walk, but the hit was a solo homer by Adames to give the Rays an insurance run that they ended up needing to maintain their lead. Tampa Bay scored again in the ninth off Lou Trivino, on a double to right field by Brandon Lowe. Piscotty nearly grabbed it for a brilliant running catch, but it glanced off his glove as he leapt toward the wall.
The loss snapped the A’s four-game winning streak, and dropped them 4 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay for the top AL Wild Card spot. The two teams meet again on Saturday, with Mike Fiers starting for Oakland.