ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay knows that if it has any chance of making the postseason, it's going to need some help.On Saturday, Jake Bauers took matters into his own hands.The Rays' first baseman destroyed an 0-2 offering with two runners on for what proved to be the difference in
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay knows that if it has any chance of making the postseason, it's going to need some help.
On Saturday, Jake Bauers took matters into his own hands.
The Rays' first baseman destroyed an 0-2 offering with two runners on for what proved to be the difference in a 7-5 win over the Athletics at Tropicana Field. With the victory, Tampa Bay moved to within eight games of the A's for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"It feels pretty damn good, excuse my language," Bauers said. "It's been a pretty long month for me personally, to contribute to a win like that and let emotions out in a positive way, it feels pretty good."
Bauers, who has had his growing pains as a rookie this year, ripped the 96-mph fastball from Jeurys Familia over the right field fence with ease. Bauers sent his lumber flying as well, making the most of his bat flip in the big moment.
"I think [the bat flip] might have felt better," he said. "It's nothing to do with disrespect or showing people up, it's just purely letting out a lot of pent up emotions out. Hitting a game-winning home run is a big thing, whether you're 100-for-100 or 0-for-100.
"The homer felt great; the bat flip felt better," he added.
While the game was a back-and-forth tilt, both teams had an opportunity to blow the game open. After dropping a hard-fought contest on Friday, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash liked the Rays' tenacity in response Saturday.
"This club as a whole holds themselves really accountable," Cash said. "One to nine in the lineup and whoever's pitching, they realize they had a chance to win a ballgame, and that didn't happen [Friday]. But it was good and refreshing and consistent in what they've done all year long."
After neither team got on the board in the first inning against the other's opener, Rays workhorse Yonny Chirinos escaped the top of the second after allowing back-to-back two-out singles when Jonathan Lucroy grounded out to end the frame.
In the bottom half of the inning, Kevin Kiermaier legged out an infield single that deflected off Dean Kiekhefer. Brandon Lowe then connected on Kiekhefer's 1-0 slider, belting it over the right field fence for the early 2-0 lead.
Jed Lowrie singled in a run in the top of the third, and Matt Olson homered off Chirinos in the top of the sixth to bring the score back even at two.
The bottom of the same frame proved costly for Oakland. With Yusmeiro Petit pitching -- the A's fifth pitcher on a bullpen day -- Joey Wendle walked to begin the inning. Kiermaier then ripped a 2-1 fastball to the right-field corner to put Tampa Bay up, 3-2. Two batters later, a Bauers sacrifice fly to right brought in Kiermaier to pad the lead.
Oakland got the runs back in the seventh. With a runner at first, pinch hitter Mark Canha crushed a double to center field, plating Marcus Semien. Canha would later advance to third on a groundout and then scored himself when Nick Ciuffo couldn't handle a Chaz Roe pitch for a passed ball.
After the go-ahead homer by Bauers, Matt Chapman get one run back for the A's with a home run to center field, but it proved to not be enough as the Rays moved to 81-66 on the year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Tampa Bay reliever Vidal Nuno loaded the bases in the top of the eighth with one out and the score tied at 4. But he was able to coax Semien to strike out for a pivotal out. Andrew Kittredge then replaced Nuno and forced Canha to ground out to short and end the inning, avoiding what could have been a costly inning.
The Rays have used 16 pitchers over the past 18 innings, allowing seven runs over that stretch while striking out 20.
HE SAID IT
"We want to be playing baseball games in these types of series for many years to come. We have a bunch of guys here who are gonna be here for many years to come and it's a core group. Any lesson, any win, any tough loss that they can pull something positive from it will benefit us in the long run," -- Cash
Wendle has been a consistent bat for the Rays since July and they'll look to him again during Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET finale against the A's at Tropicana Field. Wendle, who is among rookie leaders in games played, batting average, OPS and RBIs, was traded to Tampa Bay from Oakland in December. He and the Rays will face off against Mike Fiers 12-6, 3.29 ERA), who has yet to face Tampa Bay this season. The Rays will go with a bullpen day for a third consecutive game, and tabbed Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.31) as the opener.
Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.