OAKLAND -- Seeking a four-game sweep, Tampa Bay followed its unique pitching strategy by sending a reliever to the mound to start on Thursday. But the plan didn't work this time around, as Oakland defeated Tampa Bay, 7-3, at the Coliseum to close out the series.The Rays fell to 28-27
OAKLAND -- Seeking a four-game sweep, Tampa Bay followed its unique pitching strategy by sending a reliever to the mound to start on Thursday. But the plan didn't work this time around, as Oakland defeated Tampa Bay, 7-3, at the Coliseum to close out the series.
The Rays fell to 28-27 with the loss, which snapped a five-game winning streak.
Reliever Ryne Stanek made his second start for the Rays and looked strong while retiring the side in order in the first. Khris Davis had something to say about Stanek's second inning, though.
Davis, who was activated from the disabled list on Thursday, doubled off the center-field wall to start the inning. After Chad Pinder drew a one-out walk, Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Ryan Yarbrough -- who, by design, was tasked to throw the bulk of the innings.
Yarbrough struck out the first batter he faced before surrendering a two-run double to Stephen Piscotty. Mark Canha followed with an RBI single to put the A's up, 3-0.
"I felt good, obviously coming into that situation to try and help get Stanny out of it," Yarbrough said. "Left a pitch up in the zone. Piscotty was able to hit it down the line. After that, I felt like I was able to settle in."
Matt Olson and Matt Chapman hit solo home runs off Yarbrough in the seventh and Matt Joyce added a two-run homer off Vidal Nuno in the eighth to push the lead to 7-0.
Employing a more traditional route to pitching, the A's sent out Daniel Mengden to make his 12th start of the season, and the right-hander responded with eight scoreless innings to run his scoreless streak to 25 frames, before Wilson Ramos snapped the streak with a two-run double in the ninth. Christian Arroyo added an RBI double, but that was all the Rays could muster in the inning.
"Two homers in the end left a sour taste in your mouth, especially when you have that late rally -- it would have been a tie game," Yarbrough said. "Definitely will be thinking about that for a while. But the middle part felt really comfortable."
Cash wasn't as hard on Yarbrough as Yarbrough was on himself.
"I thought he threw the ball really well," Cash said. "I know they hit the home runs there at the end. He came in, got a big out with [Bruce] Maxwell, then credit Piscotty for going down, getting a ball and giving them the lead. We've kind of held their offense somewhat quiet. Today, the bats came out, but I even told Yarbs after the game, he looked good."
Thursday's game was the sixth time the Rays have employed the reliever-before-starter approach. Despite the loss, the overall results have been good.
"I think it alters a lineup's approach a little bit," Cash said. "It throws a wrinkle into it.
"Is it going to continue to work? Will we have the same thoughts that we have right now as we do, say, in August or September? I don't know."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Rays trailed, 7-0, heading into the ninth, and they rallied to make things interesting, scoring three times. Then, with runners on second and third with two outs, Pinder made a circus barehanded catch of Johnny Field's popup to quash the rally for the final out.
Olson's home run off Yarbrough in the seventh had an exit velocity of 112.7 mph and traveled 475 feet, making the blast the longest home run hit at Oakland since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015, and fifth longest in MLB this season.
CASALI TO THE REDS
The Rays traded Triple-A Durham catcher Curt Casali to the Reds for cash considerations. He was hitting .274 with four home runs and 20 RBIs for the Bulls.
HE SAID IT
"I think the guys should feel good. Really proud of themselves. There's work to be done, we can always get better. But we're doing a good job. We've come together as a team multiple times this year. But it's very early, we have to continue to get better and play good baseball." -- Cash, on the Rays finishing May in third place with a 28-27 record
Sergio Romo will start Friday against the Mariners in a 10:10 p.m. ET contest at Safeco Field. Romo has allowed runs in three of his past four appearances, totaling six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. On Tuesday in Oakland, he pitched for a third straight day and allowed two runs in the ninth, but came away with the save. Mike Leake will start for the Mariners.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.