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Game #78: Rays best A’s on missed plays

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics (40-37) lost to the Tampa Bay Rays (44-32) tonight at the Coliseum by a score of 5-3, evening their four game series halfway through at a game apiece. A close contest throughout, the game was lost largely on some key plays that were missed by the A’s defense. The ecstasy that ensued in Oakland after last night’s dramatic comeback win was deflated by the announcement of rotation ace Frankie Montas’s 80 game suspension, and the outcome of the game that followed tonight did little to soothe the A’s disappointment at effectively losing a highly valuable teammate for the rest of 2019.

—Game Thread One—

—Game Thread Two—

—Game Thread Three—

Tanner Anderson, the A’s right handed newcomer, looked impressive early in the game with his balletic kick and a fastball topping out around 93mph. He struck out four in the first two innings, which were only slightly marred by a single from Rays’ left fielder Tommy Pham in the first. Andrew Kittredge, recently recalled by Tampa after dealing in AAA earlier in the season, played the opener role for the Rays and fulfilled his purpose. Despite a bit of trouble in the first, Kittredge allowed no runs and struck out three in two innings.

Slow and steady scoring commenced in the third inning, as the A’s forfeited the advantage with some costly misplays but stayed in it with a pair of solo dingers. Tanderson issued a four pitch walk to ex-Athletic and tonight’s third baseman for the Rays, Joey Wendle, to open the top frame. Soon thereafter, with one on and one out, Anderson made a mistake offering to second baseman Brandon Lowe, who rocked it off the center field wall. A bum throw from Laureano allowed Lowe to reach third as right fielder Guillermo Heredia scored the first run of the game. Then, with Pham at the plate, Josh Phegley let a low fastball get past him and Lowe made it home on the play. Anderson allowed two more singles but escaped further damage. Jalen Beeks came out to pitch the bottom of the third for the Rays and allowed Matt Olson to get one back with a 433 foot no-doubter. The inning ended with the Rays up 2-1.

Both teams added one on in the fourth. With runners at the corners and one out, a high throw from Semien to Olson on a would-be 4-6-3 double play extended the inning and allowed Rays’ center fielder Kevin Kiermaier to score from third. Anderson was looking fairly hittable by that point, allowing three singles in the inning. He would not return in the fifth, finishing with a line of 4 IP, 3 ER, 4 K, and 1 BB. In the bottom of the fourth, Ramon Laureano completed the inning’s tit-for-tat with his 12th homer of the season—and his fourth in the past nine games—as the A’s crept back to within one.

The A’s sent lefty Wei-Chung Wang, their second most recently called up pitcher (not counting Joey Wendelken, who was just recalled today), to face the Rays in the fifth. Wang put in another fine performance in long relief, though he did give up a home run to Rays’ shortstop Willy Adames in the sixth. That was the only hit Wang allowed in three innings, accompanied by one walk; his big league ERA for the season now sits at a tidy 2.13. The A’s offense had no answer against Rays’ pitcher Austin Pruitt across the fifth through seventh innings. Oakland threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Profar hit a double to the left field corner that appeared sufficient to plate Khris Davis from first, but Davis was thrown out on a surgically focused relay combo from Pham to Adames to Rays’ catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. The Rays’ defense, already charged with two errors, had appeared shoddy at several points in the game, but it became spectacular in the sixth: the inning ended with a superb diving recover-and-throw from Lowe to first baseman Ji-Man Choi.

The A’s did manage to gain some ground in the eighth. Joakim Soria pitched a 1-2-3 top frame, and then the Matts served up a double-double combo that brought Chapman home for the A’s third run. Olson remained at second with no outs, but none of Davis, Laureano, and Profar could advance Oly any further, hindered somewhat by a bit of questionable balls and strikes calling. Most notably, Laureano was called out on a pitch from Pruitt that appeared to be well out of the zone. The Rays led 4-3 as the game headed to the ninth.

Fortune favored the Rays in the final inning. Lou Trivino pitched the ninth for the A’s. He gave up a leadoff single to Adames, who advanced to third on a groundout by Wendle. Trivino took control for a big strikeout against Heredia, but Adames scored the Rays’ fifth run when Brandon Lowe doubled on a deep fly to the right center wall that was almost—and should have been—caught by Stephen Piscotty, who called off Laureano but couldn’t quite execute the catch. Trivino has struggled some with control this year, but even when he’s pitched well, chance has been cruel as we saw in his appearance tonight. The A’s appeared poised for a possible rally in the bottom of the ninth when Stephen Piscotty led off with a walk against Oliver Drake. Robbie Grossman then struck out, and Emilio Pagán relieved Drake to quickly end the game on groundouts from Mark Canha and Marcus Semien, whose 17 game hitting streak ended with tonight’s loss.

The AL West leading Houston Astros lost their sixth straight game today, so the A’s remain eight games behind in the standings, and just two behind the Boston Red Sox for the second Wild Card spot as the All Star break fast approaches. The series against Tampa Bay continues tomorrow at 1pm PDT. Tampa will fight Mike Fiers (7-3, 4.38 ERA) with, well, they haven’t announced their plans yet. Throw us whom the Rays may, we’ll be here rooting for the A’s!

A Few Fun Facts for a Freaky Friday

  • Who doesn’t love dogs? Thousands of fans brought their furry friends to the Coliseum today. There’s nothing like a loyal companion to get you through a rough day of pitcher suspensions and failed attempts at winning streak extensions. Apropos, make sure you don’t miss Alex Hall’s canine centric piece from yesterday before it slips off the front page. It’s a treasure.
  • Speaking of Frankie, I mean, I’m really not in the mood to add much on the subject here. But it’s worth noting that Joey Wendelken was called up to fill the void on the roster spot, which says nothing about who picks up what was to be Montas’s next start.
  • Semien snubbed? I certainly think so! He’s absolutely played like an All Star and only Matt Chapman is worthy competition as the A’s MVP so far this season. Here’s a story from Jessica Kleinschmidt at nbcsports.com on the matter that includes some insights from former A’s outfielder turned analyst, Eric Byrnes.