OAKLAND –- The A’s had a lot of numbers working in their favor entering Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays’ Drew Smyly.
They went by the wayside, as the lefty combined with three relievers to beat the A’s 2-1 in the opener of a three-game series at the Coliseum.
The ending epitomized the A’s offensive frustrations on the night. They rallied in the ninth off Rays closer Brad Boxberger, breaking through with a run to close the gap and advancing the tying and winning runs into scoring position. But Boxberger struck out Marcus Semien and retired Billy Burns on a fly out to left to end it.
[STIGLICH: A's notes: Doolittle looks ready to return]
Indeed, Oakland hitters have some well-documented struggles against southpaws this season. But Smyly (1-2), in just his second start since coming back from a torn labrum in his shoulder, came in 0-6 with a 5.26 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the A’s.
He snapped that streak of misfortune, and the A’s failed to build on the momentum of a two-game sweep over the Dodgers to begin this homestand. They advanced just three runners as far as third base, and two of those came in the ninth. And though they beat the Dodgers twice in games started by a left-hander, Friday’s loss dropped them to 11-23 overall in games started by a lefty.
Starting pitching report
Chris Bassitt (1-5) delivered another stellar start. That’s becoming a trend. Unfortunately for him, so is his lack of run support. Friday’s game marked the sixth time in his nine starts his teammates have scored one run or fewer for him.
All the right-hander can do is keep dealing. He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just one run, which came in the second. He hit Logan Forsythe with a pitch to put the leadoff batter on, and Forsythe moved to second on a wild pitch. Desmond Jennings drove him home with a single to left. But Bassitt lowered his ERA to 2.31 over his nine major league starts this season. He’s gone at least six innings and allowed six hits or fewer over each of his last six outings.
Pat Venditte entered a bases-loaded situation in the seventh to relieve Bassitt, and the ambidextrous reliever got the job done. The moment came with all the entertainment that a Venditte outing can bring. Rays manager Kevin Cash called on the switch-hitting Daniel Nava to pinch-hit. What followed was the awkward few moments where Nava waited for Venditte to declare which arm he would throw with. Venditte chose to throw lefty, and Nava stepped in to bat right-handed. He popped out.
Venditte added a 1-2-3 eighth. The bad news came when Evan Scribner allowed Desmond Jennings’ solo homer in the ninth. That makes 15 games in a row that the A’s have allowed at least one homer, tying the Oakland record.
At the plate
The A’s closed to within 2-1 on Coco Crisp’s perfectly placed check-swing RBI single to center. A throwing error from center fielder Kevin Kiermaier moved pinch runner Sam Fuld to third base. Crisp stole second, but the A’s couldn’t muster the late-inning magic.
In the field
Josh Phegley threw out Jennings trying to steal second in the top of the second. That made Phegley 15-for-36 in throwing out base stealers this season.
Announced turnout – 20,671.
The A’s shuffled their rotation a bit to keep Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.04) on his regular four days’ rest. He’ll go in Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. game, looking to rebound from Monday’s loss at Baltimore. Erasmo Ramirez (10-4, 3.57) takes the hill for Tampa Bay.