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Laureano's grand slam lifts A's to series win

Outfielder plates five as Oakland ends road trip on upswing
@Sportsgal25
June 12, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The old cliché about seeing glasses half full or half empty has kind of been lost lately on the A’s, whose glass has been just … half. Wednesday's victory bumped the A’s back up to 35-34 overall, right in the comfort range. Still, Wednesday represented more than

ST. PETERSBURG -- The old cliché about seeing glasses half full or half empty has kind of been lost lately on the A’s, whose glass has been just … half.

Wednesday's victory bumped the A’s back up to 35-34 overall, right in the comfort range. Still, Wednesday represented more than just the 6-2 victory against the Rays at Tropicana Field that wrapped a 10-game road swing on a high note.

Box score

“It’s fun; we like it,” said Ramón Laureano, who drove in five of the A’s six runs. “The whole trip was pretty positive, pretty fun the whole time.”

Laureano was responsible for the final momentum swing in the eighth inning, tattooing a 2-2 pitch from reliever Colin Poche for his first grand slam. The homer marked Laureano’s ninth of the year and completely silenced the crowd that had just only gotten its hopes up when the Rays tied the game in the bottom of the seventh.

“[The grand slam] was huge. I was just trying to get one run, and we got four,” Laureano said with a smile. “I know it was a relieving moment for all of us, and we’re going home happy.”

To win a series against Tampa Bay -- which entered play Wednesday tied with the Yankees at the top of the American League East -- after a combination of travel issues, battles against inconsistency and a stretch during which the A’s played four games in 48 hours, Oakland drew out the resiliency and fortitude manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday he knew it possessed.

“These guys showed last year they’re fighters,” Melvin said. “We’ve gone through some little bit tougher stretches this year and been tested, but these guys are really good about putting a game away and going out there and playing for that day, playing 100 percent and doing the same thing the next day no matter what happens.”

Player hot streaks and slumps aside, Oakland has remained consistent in one thing -- maybe frustratingly so -- in that at the end of the day, everything settles back around .500.

“We were several below, we got to a point where we were three or four ahead, but we really have not hit our stride yet,” said Melvin, whose team has not been more than one game over or under the midwater mark since May 29.

Wednesday could very well be the catalyst that propels the A’s well over the .500 hump. They’ll now head home for a season-long 10-game stretch at the Coliseum, where they’re 50-24 dating back to June 16, 2018.

The series finale against Tampa Bay brought with it many of the things Oakland has benefited from throughout the season, most notably more home runs and a strong starting performance. But it also added in some pretty superb -- and spotless -- defense to present a challenge too great for the Rays to overcome.

In addition to the slam, Laureano also drove in a run in the fourth inning, giving him 28 RBIs on the season.

In the sixth inning, Matt Olson clubbed his 11th homer and second in as many games to give Oakland what was then a little breathing room at 2-0. According to Statcast, the 2-1 pitch rocketed off his bat at 110.6 mph and marked Olson’s hardest-hit homer since July 22, 2018.

The A’s have hit 55 homers in the past 28 games, but offense wasn’t the whole story: Matt Chapman also did his part by continuing to make near-impossible plays look routine.

The Rays had runners at first and third with one out in the first inning when Brett Anderson fanned Avisail Garcia to bring up Travis d’Arnaud. The catcher skidded a 2-1 fastball up the third-base line but Chapman swooped in with a ranging backhand and fired a long throw to first to catch d’Arnaud for the final out and preserve the scoreless game.

“He continues to amaze with his defense,” Melvin said Tuesday. “As far as he travels to get the balls, where he comes from, how deep he plays, it’s Platinum Glove-quality stuff, and we continue to see it every day.”

Anderson kept Tampa Bay in check early with another solid outing, holding the Rays to a pair of earned runs on seven hits, a walk and a hit batter over 6 1/3 innings. Oakland’s lefty has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his past five starts and has pitched to a 3.03 ERA in that stretch.

That the A’s are heading home with a 6-4 record on the road trip, Anderson said, is a testament to the ballclub.

Maybe it’ll even give the A’s the nudge they need to finally leave .500 in the rear-view mirror.

“I wouldn’t say it’s make-or-break, but all the things that kind of went against our way, we could’ve folded and caved in, but we fought through it,” Anderson said. “It’s a good sign for us, especially against a club like [the Rays].”

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