Rays sink to A's as wild card race heats up
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Rays are hoping to find more offense on the road. Their lineup didn't look so good at home on Saturday.
Desmond Jennings belted a solo homer but Tampa Bay had just four hits in a 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The Rays managed 21 runs and 43 hits while splitting a six-game homestand, and they know they have to pick it up at the plate to maintain the positive run they've had so far in August.
"The overall body of work here offensively has not been nearly as good as it has been on the road," manager Joe Maddon said. "Maybe the guys feel more hitterish on the road, I don't know. There's no specific reason as to why, but let's take our act on the road and start swinging the bats again."
Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings while improving to 9-0 against AL East teams since 2009.
After Sean Doolittle struck out two during a perfect eighth, Grant Balfour got the final three outs for his 14th save.
Chris Carter and Seth Smith homered for the Athletics, who took two of three from Tampa Bay and moved within a half-game of the AL wild card-leading Rays. Oakland has won eight of 10 to go a season-high 12 games over .500.
Carter hit a two-run shot off Jeremy Hellickson (8-9), helping Oakland take a 3-0 lead in the first. Coco Crisp scored the first run of the game from third when catcher Jose Lobaton made an errant throw to second on Stephen Drew's stolen base.
Hellickson left a changeup out over the plate against Carter, who drove it over the wall in left for his 11th homer.
"First and third with no outs, then I did a good job limiting the damage and then I make a pitch like that," Hellickson said. "I could have got out of it; it's pretty frustrating."
The Rays are batting just .233 at home for the season, but have made up for it with solid pitching. Saturday marked the first time the Rays have given up four runs or more in back-to-back games since July 7-8.
"It's unique. You don't see this kind of pitching. Once every century or so," Maddon said. "It's outstanding and I love it, but wasting good pitching is a borderline mortal sin so we just have to do a better job scoring points."
Smith put the Athletics up 4-1 with his 12th homer in the third.
The Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but only managed one run on Lobaton's sacrifice fly. Jennings went deep in the fifth.
Hellickson yielded six hits, struck out five and walked none in five innings.
Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell extended his team-record shutout streak to 26 2-3 consecutive innings after pitching a scoreless seventh.
Both teams will have a rare Sunday off because Tropicana Field is one of the venues being used for the Republican National Convention. Tampa Bay opens a three-game series at AL West-leading Texas on Monday night, while the Athletics begin a four-game series at Cleveland.
According to the Rays, Oakland and Seattle did not play the first Sunday this season (April 8) due in part to opening the regular season in Japan. Before that, the last time there wasn't a game scheduled on a Sunday was Sept. 10, 1995, when San Diego and St. Louis were off because of a scheduling conflict with the NFL's St. Louis Rams at Busch Stadium.
NOTES: The Rays went 7 for 41 with runners in scoring position during the
homestand. ... The Rays are 35-30 at home and 35-27 on the road. ...
Oakland RF Josh Reddick, who began the day mired in 14-for-94 slide, was
dropped from third to sixth in the lineup. "Anytime a guy goes through
some struggles, you want to change it up a little bit," Athletics
manager Bob Melvin said. "We expect him back in the three-spot before
long." Reddick went 3 for 4, including a double. ... Hellickson threw 41
pitches in the first. ... Carter has hit eight of 11 homers this season
on the road.