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A's bats return to form with back-to-back jacks

Olson, Davis turn game around in 6th inning; Fiers allows 2 ER in 6 IP to earn win
@Sportsgal25
June 11, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- So much of the hype around the A’s offense this year has been about the long ball that Monday seemed conspicuously quiet without one. Not to fear: Oakland was back in business on Tuesday during a 4-3 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. “It’s a really

ST. PETERSBURG -- So much of the hype around the A’s offense this year has been about the long ball that Monday seemed conspicuously quiet without one. Not to fear: Oakland was back in business on Tuesday during a 4-3 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“It’s a really good club over there,” said Matt Olson, whose two-run homer put the A’s ahead to stay. “A lot of good arms and they’ve been swinging it well, so to come back and get a win, it’s big.”

Box score

The A’s trailed, 2-1, in the sixth and had mustered just three hits to that point, thanks in part to Tampa Bay’s opener strategy that saw Oakland facing three pitchers during the first six innings.

But it was in the sixth that the A’s broke through. Matt Chapman got the ball rolling with one out by hustling to first on a sharp grounder to the left side of the infield. Rays shortstop Willy Adames’ throw arrived just ahead of Chapman but was in the dirt, causing first baseman Ji-Man Choi to bobble the scoop just long enough for first-base umpire Sean Barber to rule Chapman safe. The Rays challenged the call, but it was upheld upon review.

“I think that was the play that cost us the game,” Adames said. “It would have been two outs there; maybe the homers wouldn’t happen.”

The seemingly small victory became part of a much bigger storyline three pitches later, when Olson swatted his 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot to right-center that gave the A’s their first lead of the series at 3-2. All of Olson’s homers have come in the past 28 games.

Two pitches later, Khris Davis provided a little insurance, sending his 14th round-tripper over the wall in center field. It was the fourth time this season A's have homered in consecutive at-bats, and the first since May 24 against the Mariners, when Olson and Mark Canha pulled off the feat.

Both homers came against Rays reliever Emilio Pagan, who spent last season with Oakland.

“No one likes doing that,” Pagan admitted afterward. “Doesn’t make me any more upset than it would anybody else. … I’ve got a relationship with those guys and you always want to do good, especially against your buddies.”

The A’s evened the series with the win and hope to finish the 10-game, nine-day road trip on a high note by taking Wednesday’s rubber match.

Olson and Davis helped add to a homer-heavy stretch for Oakland. Since May 13, the A’s have gone deep 53 times in 27 games. They hit 51 home runs over their first 42 tilts, have 104 on the season and are one of just five American League teams with 100 or more. Along with Olson and Davis, Oakland has an MLB-best nine players with eight or more home runs.

The rest of the list? Chapman (16), Canha (10), Jurickson Profar and Marcus Semien (nine), and Ramón Laureano, Josh Phegley and Stephen Piscotty (eight).

“We’re facing a good pitching staff,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “When you have your chances, [you have] to drive something on a mistake, and they did that for us.”

Mike Fiers delivered the second strong starting performance of the series, quietly logging six innings of two-run ball. His lone mistake was a one-out, first-inning slider that Tommy Pham tagged for a home run. Fiers appeared to watch the replay on the Jumbotron, shake his head to clear it, then settle in to close out the inning using just two more pitches.

The Rays scored in the fourth as well, when a two-out walk to Adames paired with a Kevin Kiermaier single put runners at the corners in the 1-0 game. Tampa Bay then executed a double steal, with Phegley throwing high to second as Adames scampered home.

Both runners were safe, but Fiers again rebounded to end the inning immediately afterward, this time with a Mike Zunino strikeout. Fiers struck out four, walked two and issued a wild pitch, using 99 pitches (63 for strikes) during his sixth win of the season.

Fiers is 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA over his past seven starts, a stretch that began with his May 7 no-hitter.

“Everything [was working],” he said. “I felt my normal self and was attacking the guys with my stuff, challenging them and making them beat me.”

Liam Hendriks and Lou Trivino followed Fiers with a scoreless inning of relief apiece, amassing five strikeouts between them. Blake Treinen allowed a run to score with two outs for a little last-minute drama but then induced a Kiermaier groundout to put a bow on his 15th save.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.