It was a tight game Friday night in St. Petersburg. It was a game between the team the technically inventing the “opener” and “bullpenning” and another that had ended up having to use that strategy often this season out of necessity, thanks to a massive number of injuries to their starting rotation (and the players who were supposed to be replacements for the injured rotation). Overall the Tampa Bay Rays were a bit better at “bullpenning” than the A’s throughout the game but that didn’t keep the A’s from a 2-1 victory.
Little offense from either team:
Rays’ “opener,” Diego Castillo, struck out the side in the first inning and beyond that the Rays pitchers held the Athletics to just 3 hits on the night, one to each of the Matts - Chapman and Olson - respectively and one to the man we like to call Khrush. Matt Olson’s RBI single that plated Matt Chapman was all the offense the A’s could muster against a Rays’ pitching staff that is even more used to “bullpenning” than the A’s pitching staff. The hit by Khris Davis came much later in the game and was one of two crucial pieces of the puzzle that led to the A’s win over the Rays.
Both teams’ only run until the came went into extra innings came during the fourth. Matt Chapman doubled in the top of the inning and as noted, it was Olson’s single that sent him home. Former Athletics’ farm handed who spent some time, off and on, with the big league club — Joey Wendle — was responsible for the Rays’ run in the bottom half of the inning, after Tommy Pham doubled to put himself in scoring position. The Rays ended up with six hits to the A’s three but it wasn’t enough for them to emerge victorious at the end of the night.
A’s defense and pitching:
A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy may not have gotten a hit in the game but his defensive efforts should not go unnoticed. He threw out one of the league’s premier base stealers in Mallex Smith and made a number of game saving plays with exact precision. Edwin Jackson pitched a solid five innings allowing just one run on four hits and two walks while collecting three strikeouts. Shawn Kelley allowed the Rays’ only other two hits in the game, giving up back-to-back singles to the first two batters he faced, Smith and Matt Duffy. He threw a wild pitch with Ji-Man Choi at bat, that allowed the runners to advance. He managed to strike out Choi and intentionally walked Wendle to load the bases with just the one out. Kelley managed to pitch his way out of the bases loaded jam to keep the tie game intact, getting Pham to pop out and got his second strikeout of the inning against Willy Adames. It was a team effort from the A’s pitching staff during the rest of the game to keep the Rays at bay.
Davis and Treinen Save The Day:
While of course there are a number players who could be called the A’s MVP this season, there are two that stand out. With the game tied at one run apiece for the A’s and the Rays since the fourth inning — it was the slugger who loves The Town and the closer with a lower ERA than I can ever remember seeing, who led the A’s to victory in the tenth. Blake Treinen pitched the bottom of the ninth to give the A’s the chance to keep the game going. And it was Davis’ home run to lead off the tenth, his MLB leading 42nd on the year, that put the A’s ahead 2-1. With a well-rested Treinen ready and willing to come in and shut the Rays down in the bottom half of the inning (and he did just that), the A’s were able to reduce their magic number from nine to seven. It was the teams’ two most valuable players — one on each side of the ball — who allowed the A’s to prevail over the Rays in 10, winning by the score of 2-1.