OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics enjoyed a productive homestand over the last week-plus, but it ended with a quiet loss on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Despite the 8-2 defeat in the finale, the A’s still finished their 10-game homestand with a winning record of 6-4.
“You always want to play above .500 at home,” said manager Bob Melvin. “[We] did that.”
Sunday’s game was over almost as quickly as it began. Oakland took an early 1-0 lead, but then the Rays scored eight runs in the third and fourth innings combined and cruised for the rest of the day.
Most of the damage was done against A’s starter Brett Anderson. The left-hander had been on a roll lately, tossing quality starts his last three times out and four of his last five, and he needed only 19 pitches to breeze through the first two frames of this game. But the Rays stung him for three in the third inning, including a two-run homer by first baseman Travid d’Arnaud, and he then allowed four straight hits to open the fourth before finally being pulled.
“Just one of those days where what could go wrong, did go wrong,” said Anderson. “One of those you don’t really dwell on. Just flush it and get ready for the next start.”
All of those hits in the fourth inning eventually came around to score, leaving Anderson with seven runs on his record.
“I think it might be the first time this year that he didn’t really have a whole lot,” said Melvin. “Really his first clunker.”
The seven runs were a season-high for Anderson, who didn’t strike out any of the 19 batters he faced. He blamed a lack of command and said he wasn’t finishing his pitches.
“It’s frustrating from my end that we could have taken the series from the team that’s ahead of us in the standings and a quality ball club,” said Anderson. “But it’s not quite as frustrating from the pitching side because I know that’s about as bad my stuff and command and everything can be. So from that side hopefully it can only go up from here.”
Anderson was replaced in the fourth inning by Brian Schlitter, making his A’s debut and his first MLB appearance since 2015 with the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander got off to a rough start, allowing hits to his first three batters to knock in the two runners he’d inherited from Anderson, but he settled down from there. He got a strikeout and a double play to end the rally, and then got through the fifth inning in just 11 pitches.
“It was just about getting my feet wet again, getting comfortable, getting that first one out of the way,” the 33-year-old Schlitter said of his first game in the majors in four years. “From here on out, just compete like I have been.”
Schlitter’s specialty is ground balls, and he showed it on Sunday. Five of the eight batted balls against him went on the ground, and he used them to induce double plays in both of his innings. In each of the last two years in Triple-A, he posted grounder rates of around two-thirds of his batted balls, which is extremely high.
“I know my strengths, and pitch to those and try to induce some ground balls, and for the most part I did that,” said Schlitter, who relies mostly on a sinker and a slider.
Aaron Brooks and J.B. Wendelken each threw two scoreless innings to keep the Rays from adding any further insurance the rest of the way, but there was no comeback on a day when the A’s bats were as quiet as the Rays’ were loud.
Oakland put up only six hits and two walks, and one of their two runs was unearned thanks to a throwing error by Tampa Bay shortstop Willy Adames. The other run came in the seventh, when Chad Pinder singled for his third hit of the day and then Marcus Semien doubled him in. In between the play on which Adames made his error in the second inning, and that single by Pinder in the seventh, 15 out of 16 A’s batters were retired, and after Semien’s double the final seven Oakland hitters went down in order.
With the loss, the A’s split their four-game series with the Rays, and fall to 4 ½ games back of Tampa Bay in the standings for the first AL Wild Card. Oakland is off on Monday, as they head to St. Louis for two games against the Cardinals and then to Anaheim for four against the Angels.