A’s sweep Rays, close AL West gap to one

OAKLAND COLISEUM — Another quality start from a young pitcher – this time from A.J. Griffin — vaulted the A’s to a sweep as they defeated the Rays 5-1 on Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Oakland.

Once again, Coco Crisp wasted no time getting his team on the board, as he led off the game with a solo home run to right field. It was the fifth lead-off homer for Crisp this season, the third most in a single season in Oakland.

Tampa Bay tied the game in the next inning as James Loney launched a solo shot of his own to center field to make it 1-1.

Griffin has given up a Major League-leading 33 home runs so far on the season. But despite Loney’s blast, Griffin settled in and gave the A’s yet another outstanding start.

Griffin tossed 102 pitches, giving up three hits, one walk, and striking out seven. Catcher Stephen Vogt was happy with how Griffin recovered after giving up the home run:

“Today, his fastball command early was a little iffy, so he just started really focusing in on using his change-up and his curveball to get them off the fastball. And then he got his command back. He had them off-balance all day and made very few mistakes. A.J. threw the ball tremendously today.”

Oakland starting pitchers are now 8-3 over their last 18 games, allowing one run or fewer nine times in that span.

On the other side of the rubber, Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher, 38-year-old Jamey Wright, lasted just-1 2/3 innings in his first start since 2007.

Wright threw just 36 pitches, walking two, and striking out one while allowing the Crisp home run. The Rays ended up using six relievers to get through nine innings, with Alex Torres taking the loss.

The game stayed tied only until the third inning, when the A’s capitalized on a Tampa Bay error to retake the lead.

With one out, Jed Lowrie singled but was able to move to third base when Evan Longoria sailed the ball past Loney at first. A single by Brandon Moss brought home Lowrie and made it 2-1 Oakland.

It looked as if Tampa Bay would tie the game in the top of the seventh.

With two outs, Wil Myers doubled and attempted to score when Desmond Jennings followed it up with a base hit. But Yoenis Cespedes rocketed a throw to Josh Donaldson who fired it into Vogt. Vogt applied the bare-handed tag on Myers, ending the inning and preserving the lead.

Vogt wasn’t done impressing against his former team, as he gave the A’s some insurance with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the seventh.

Manager Bob Melvin was impressed with his young catcher in this series:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

“He had a great series for us. The home run he hits is huge off a tough left-hander. For a guy that has not played much at the big leagues, to be in this type of position right now, playing against his former team like that – he’s gotta feel pretty good. As do we.”

Daric Barton and Eric Sogard also drove in runs in the eighth on a single and a groundout, giving Oakland more than enough offense for its bullpen.

Dan Otero, Sean Doolittle, and Ryan Cook combined to allow just two hits and no runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

Oakland now sits just one game behind Texas in the American League West with the Rangers coming in on Monday for a three-game set. Griffin says that sweeping a good Tampa Bay team has them fired up and ready:

“I think we’re excited. We feel like we’ve been playing good ball, and we’re excited to get to the ballpark every day…we’re in a good groove right now and we’re looking to keep that going.”

Notes:

This is Oakland’s first sweep of three or more games since June 11-13 against the New York Yankees and are 3-0 on their current homestand. … Griffin pitched at least seven innings for the 10th time this season. … Lowrie hit his 41st double of the season, which ties him for the fourth high single-season total in Oakland A’s history.


Follow @SFBay and @JenCosgriff on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.