The A’s got good enough pitching Thursday in a game that hung in the balance until the late innings.
There have been lots of winnable games in 2015, but Oakland just can’t come through with the crucial plays that swing an outcome in its favor. A 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays featured so many characteristics of previous defeats that have unfolded this season.
The A’s get a strong performance in one area (pitching) but it’s off-set by a poor performance in another (offense). On Thursday, they mustered just six hits off Alex Colome (3-1) and four relievers, although they had a chance to get on the scoreboard right away.
Billy Burns led off the game with a triple but the A’s couldn’t get him home, though Marcus Semien delivered a fly ball that seemed deep enough to score Burns. There were precious few opportunities after that for Oakland. They rallied with two outs in the fourth to load the bases, but Sam Fuld grounded out to first to end that threat.
And, in another familiar development, the opponent padded its lead in the late innings to make any hopes of an A’s comeback a little more faint. The Rays scored twice in the bottom of the seventh – an inning that’s been the A’s season-long house of horrors – to turn a 1-0 game into 3-0.
Starting pitching report
Jesse Chavez (1-4) continues rounding into form in his return to the rotation. The right-hander was sharp over six-plus innings. He wound up charged with three runs on five hits, and Chavez was steamed at himself as he walked off the mound after Brandon Guyer’s single in the seventh. One batter earlier, he allowed a first-pitch homer to David DeJesus to stretch Tampa Bay’s lead to 2-0. But Chavez got zero offensive support, meaning he was pitching with a thin margin for error all night. He struck out six and walked one and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. DeJesus’ homer was just the second that Chavez has allowed in 43 2/3 innings this season.
The third run charged to Chavez came after he left the game, when Guyer stole second and third and scored on Bobby Wilson’s RBI comebacker for a 3-0 Rays lead off Edward Mujica.
Mujica walked off the mound in the seventh after taking a liner off the bat of Wilson that seemed to catch him on the right hand. Mujica left with his hand wrapped, and he’s a reliever that the A’s can sorely afford to lose right now. In a bullpen that’s struggled all season, Mujica is a newcomer who has shown the potential to miss bats and retire hitters. His status wasn’t immediately known after the game.
At the plate
The A’s aren’t playing well enough right now to squander any scoring opportunity that comes their way. When Billy Burns led the game off with a triple to right-center, it was a golden opportunity to get Chavez a nice early lead. Marcus Semien delivered a fly ball to right that appeared deep enough to score Burns, but the speedy Burns tagged and then held up at third. Semien’s surprised look when he rounded first and looked back at third said it all. Oakland wouldn’t push a run across there, and those kind of mistakes always seem to factor into the final outcome for this team.
The A's are averaging just three runs over their past 15 games.
In the field
Chavez benefited from a couple of terrific plays from second baseman Eric Sogard. He made a difficult over-the-shoulder catch while on the run in the fifth to rob Nick Franklin. Then Sogard ranged up the middle for a backhand stop and mid-air throw across his body to get James Loney at first in the sixth.
Sam Fuld reached on a two-out walk in the top of the seventh and tried to get into scoring position as the tying run, but Rays catcher Bobby Wilson made an on-the-money throw to nail Fuld on his steal attempt of second.
Wilson’s counterpart, Stephen Vogt, had a tougher time of it. He let two pitches get away from him, including a called third strike on Steven Souza Jr. that allowed Souza Jr. to reach first base in the bottom of the first.
Scott Kazmir (2-2, 3.08) faces the team he broke into the majors with and represented in two All-Star games. He’ll oppose Chris Archer (4-4, 2.47) in Friday’s 4:10 p.m. game.