Rays swipe A’s momentum with 3-2 victory

The Oakland Athletics entered Monday’s game tied with the Houston Astros for the American League’s best record over their last 10 games (7-3).

All the momentum gathered in their three-game sweep of the reigning AL champs was snuffed out, as Jake Odorizzi stymied the Oakland bats, allowing a single hit over his 7 frames while leading the Tampa Bay Rays to the 3-2 win.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

All-Star Yonder Alonso said Odorizzi (W, 6-4, 4.37 ERA) did a good job of mixing his slider and splitter, keeping the A’s (42-51) guessing:

“He just kept us off-balance. The whole night, it was just a grind. He was living on the edges. … He made the pitches when he needed to make the pitches.”

After scoring 17 in a three-game sweep of Cleveland, the Oakland offense looked lost against the six-year veteran. Odorizzi finished his evening striking out five and walking two. And while the dolid contact was hard to come by for the A’s, it was there. Jed Lowrie and Ryon Healy both connected on solid liners in the fourth, but both found Tampa leather and were left unrewarded with line-outs.

That fourth proved to be the Rays starter’s only blink of the outing. While Lowrie and Healy were left unrewarded for their swings, the strength of Khris Davis planted Odorizzi’s only blip on the scoreboard. Driving a 91-mph 2-2 fastball the other way, Khris smoked a solo home run (26) over the 15-foot-high wall in right-center — his eleventh opposite-filed homer of the season.

From there, Odorizzi went unblemished allowing an error to account for his only base runner over his final 3-1/3 innings.

Manager Bob Melvin addressed his offense’s ineptitude:

“We know he throws a lot of splits — the throws a lot of off-count splits. He threw some sliders and cutters today, and we just couldn’t get a beat on him, and we were having a tough time getting a good swing off him let alone hit the ball hard.”

Homers haven’t only been the story of the Oakland offense, they have been a key narrative in the early stages Daniel Gossett‘s career.

Entering Monday’s game, the rookie hurler had served up at least one long ball in five of his six big league starts — the one time he was able to keep the opposition in the park he claimed a win over the Chicago White Sox.

Gossett (L, 1-5, 5.79 ERA) did an admirable job of limiting the Tampa damage over his 7 innings, holding the Rays to three runs on seven hits and a walk. But, once again, he was bitten by the gopher ball. Solo homers by Steven Souza Jr. (19) in the second and Evan Longoria (14) in the fifth were enough to knock his outing off course.

Melvin called Gossett’s outing the second-best of his young career — behind a win in Chicago. Gossett concurred, agreeing the long balls continue to be his weaknees:

“To Souza, we were trying to expand in and I just left it not in enough. To Longoria, trying to expand away with a cutter and it just didn’t cut quite enough.”

For all the big-fly power, it was a bobble by Marcus Semien that led what was the deciding run. The shortstop was able to wrangle a bad hop in the third, but the momentary delay was the undoing of what would have been an inning-ending double play as Mallex Smith scampered home with the Rays second run of the evening.

That tally countered an A’s run in the ninth, scored by Alonso, who doubled to lead off the frame, on a wild pitch by Tampa closer Alex Colome (S, 27, 3.80 ERA).

All night, the home team battled to sway momentum back into their corner. But, led by Odorizzi’s dominant outing, the Rays kept a tiny crowd announced at 9,736 from seizing the emotional balance for its club. This marked the first time since May 2, 2011 that the A’s had played in front of a home crowd so minuscule. Asked whether it had an effect on the outcome, Alonso denied:

“No excuse, you’ve got to go play. You’ve got to to go out there and do what you’ve got to do to win a ballgame — you’ve got to bear down, you’ve got to stay focused. It’s always nice to have a packed house, no question about it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to go play.”

On deck

Chris Smith (0-0, 4.50 ERA) gets his second starting assignment Tuesday, after allowing six hits and four runs to the Mariners on July 8. He will match up with lefty Blake Snell (0-5, 4.85 ERA).

Notes

The A’s hadn’t played in front of a home crowd as modest as Monday’s — 9,736 — since May 2, 2011. … The A’s front office continued its evolution around the team’s search for a new stadium. The team announced its hiring of Ashwin Puri as Vice President of Strategy and Business Operations. Prior to the hiring, Puri served as the Senior Associate Athletics Director, Chief Revenue Officer at the University of California. A’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Giles said, via press release:

“Under Ash’s leadership, Cal made tremendous progress. His extensive experience across a broad array of business functions will be a key asset to our organization.”

In his new role, Puri will oversee the commerce, strategic planning and data analytics functions. He will take his position September 5.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.