Rays, A’s getting good starts, relying on pens to clean up

OAKLAND, Calif. — Two teams that have relied heavily on their bullpens in a recent stretch of impressive play hope to get quality outings from their starters Tuesday night when the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics continue their four-game series.

Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell (6-3, 2.78 ERA) and Oakland’s Daniel Gossett (0-2, 6.28) get the starting assignments as the Rays attempt to begin a nine-game trip with a second consecutive win.

Both starting pitchers performed brilliantly in Monday’s series opener, but that didn’t stop each manager’s recent reliance on his bullpen.

Even after six shutout innings by starter Chris Archer, the Rays’ Kevin Cash had to call upon five relievers to cover the final seven innings of a 1-0, 13-inning victory.

The last of the relievers, left-hander Jonny Vetters, produced one of the happiest moments of a generally successful season for Tampa Bay, completing a comeback from serious arm injuries to get the final out for his first save since 2011.

Afterward, Vetters sounded prouder of his teammates than of himself after the Rays recently dealt away two key players — Denard Span and Alex Colome — to Seattle.

“We grinded out a win,” he said. “It’s always good to go out and get a win after you lose a couple guys that are big parts of the team, but it’s the way it is.”

The seven shutout innings continued an amazing run by the Rays’ bullpen. They’ve been called upon for 31 1/3 innings in the last four games, allowing just two runs and 19 hits.

In fact, the last time the Tampa Bay bullpen got any kind of a break was when Snell went six shutout innings in his start against Boston last Thursday. The Rays won that game 6-3.

Snell has faced the A’s twice in his career, both times in Oakland, going 0-0 with a 4.22 ERA.

The 25-year-old left-hander started a 4-3 win over the A’s last season in a game in which two of the Oakland three runs came via a first-inning home run by Khris Davis, who currently is out of action with a groin strain.

Gossett made a successful return to the majors last Wednesday when he threw seven strong innings in a 1-0 loss to Seattle. He allowed one run and four hits.

The 25-year-old right-hander has faced the Rays once in his career, coming up on the losing end of a 4-3 home decision last July. He allowed three runs in seven innings, giving him an 0-1 record and a 3.86 ERA against Tampa Bay.

Like Snell, Gossett won’t have to deal with the guy who tormented him last season. Only in this case, there were two of them — Evan Longoria and Steven Souza — neither of whom is back with Tampa Bay this season.

Both homered against Gossett in last year’s meeting.

The Oakland bullpen got a break Saturday when Daniel Mengden shut out Seattle. But the group has gone 20 1/3 innings in four of the last five games, allowing just 14 hits and three runs.

Thanks in great part to their pitching depth, both teams entered the series having won nine of their past 13 games.

The Rays have taken six of their last eight head-to-head over the A’s.