OAKLAND, Calif. — The Tampa Bay Rays became the first team to 50 wins, and for the Oakland Athletics splitting a four-game series against baseball’s best spelled success.
At 50-22, the Rays reached 50 wins in the fewest games in franchise history and it’s tied for the second-fastest any team has reached 50 wins in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Luke Raley hit a go-ahead solo homer with one out in the eighth, Manuel Margot connected earlier, and the Rays beat the 19-win A’s 4-3 on Thursday.
Rays rookie top prospect Taj Bradley struck out the first six A’s batters in order and a career-high 11 in all, surrendering Seth Brown’s tying two-run single in the fifth.
Sure, the Rays are happy with their win total at this stage.
“That sounds really good, I’m really excited to get out of here, though,” manager Kevin Cash said.
The A’s loaded the bases against former Oakland pitcher Jake Diekman in the seventh only for the defense to deliver a brilliant play. Seth Brown hit a hard grounder — a 107.9 mph exit velocity — that second baseman Taylor Walls fielded and fired home to save a run and then catcher Francisco Mejia threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
“Honestly, I knew I had time because of the force out at home so I kind of took a half-step back before that,” Walls said. “That ball was smoked so I didn’t really have time to think about anything. But after I realized I gloved it clean I knew that it was a chance for a double play.”
Robert Stephenson (1-0) came in for Diekman to get the final out of the seventh. Right-hander Pete Fairbanks returned from the 15-day injured list with inflammation in his left hip and finished for his sixth save.
Fairbanks is nursing a black eye on the right side after dunking while playing basketball in the family pool with 3-year-old son Isak and hitting the backboard.
“Teach him an early lesson in life: When you’re in the paint, you cannot be caught unaware underneath the basket,” Fairbanks said. “Did that end up with me with a black eye? Yes. So, it was fun. My wife has been making fun of me about it, as has pretty much everybody here. So, it’s been a good past five days or whatever.”
Paul Blackburn struck out a career-high nine for the A’s, who had their season-best seven-game winning streak snapped a night earlier. Austin Pruitt (1-4) took the loss.
JJ Bleday beat out an infield single to start the third for the first baserunner against Bradley.
“Electric stuff,” Oakland’s Tony Kemp said about Bradley.
Before Thursday, the only Rays pitcher to retire the first six batters by strikeout was Blake Snell against the Mariners on June 3, 2018. It marked the first time the first six A’s batters struck out in a game since April 8, 1987, against Frank Viola and the Twins.
Margot connected for his third homer in the fourth to support Bradley a day after hitting three doubles. All three of Margot’s homers have come against the A’s.
Blackburn ran into trouble in the second, when Harold Ramirez reached on an error before the right-hander surrendered a single to Raley, Isaac Paredes’ RBI single and then an RBI double to Walls.
Richard Lovelady relieved Blackburn but had to exit in the seventh with an injury. Manager Mark Kotsay said the pitcher experienced a burning sensation in his elbow 20 months post-Tommy John surgery and would undergo an MRI exam.
Kemp snapped a career-long 0-for-24 hitless stretch with a single in the third — his third hit in day games. He earlier had stretch of 23 straight hitless at-bats.
The Rays won the season series for the second straight year, going 5-2 after a three-game sweep in Tampa from April 5-7 in which they outscored the A’s 31-5 with a pair of 11-0 victories.
Oakland is celebrating its progress in a tough first half.
“Coming back home after a really good road trip and taking the first two from them I feel like it kind of [opened] some people’s eyes in here a little bit,” Blackburn said, “we’re a good team.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Read Full Article