OAKLAND — With their normally reliable starting pitching a little less stable because LHP Matt Moore is still on the disabled list and RHP Jeremy Hellickson is getting some team-ordered rest, the Tampa Bay Rays tried to piece together a win Sunday against the A’s with a parade of relief pitchers.
With some help from the offense it might have worked, too.
RHP Jamey Wright, who made his first start since Aug. 25, 2007, LHP Alex Torres, RHP Brandon Gomes and LHP Wes Wright got the game into the seventh inning with the Rays trailing by a run. But starting with a home run by C Stephen Vogt off LHP Jake McGee, the A’s pulled away in their final two at-bats for a 5-1 victory.
“Overall we did pretty well, kept us in the game going into the seventh inning down by one, and we had chance to win the game,” McGee said.
The Rays opted for the heavy bullpen day because they wanted to avoid starting RHP Roberto Hernandez against the left-handed heavy A’s lineup. Lefties are hitting .305 this season against Hernandez. They were hitting only .205 against Wright.
Wright allowed a home run to CF Coco Crisp on his third pitch of the game and loaded the bases with one out before escaping the jam with a double-play grounder. Torres replaced him with two outs in the second inning and pitched 31⁄3 innings.
“I was very pleased with how it worked out,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Jamie got out of (the first inning) with a double play. Alex was really good. Torres really set that whole thing up today. Overall the plan with the pitchers went as planned. But the home run with Vogt created the distance and made that eighth inning more difficult.”
The Rays still haven’t decided on a Wednesday starter against the Angels. Maddon said it could be Hernandez, RHP Jake Odorizzi or Hellickson. Or, he could use another bullpen day.
What this means
The Rays needed to win one game in Oakland to gain the tiebreaker against the A’s should both teams finish tied atop the wild-card standings since the first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchup.
Now that they’ve split six games this season, the tiebreaker moves to each team’s record within their division. The Rays have a .540 winning percentage against the AL East. The A’s, who are 12-3 this year against Houston, currently have a .561 winning percentage in the AL West.
DH Delmon Young was added to the roster Sunday and played his first game for Tampa Bay since the end of the 2007 season, when the franchise was still known as the Devil Rays.
He flied out to right field in the eighth inning while pinch-hitting for LF David DeJesus.
Young, who signed a minorleague contract Aug. 22, spent the past week trying to regain his swing at Double-A Montgomery. He said he was pleased with the adjustments he made with shifting his weight and getting the barrel of the bat out in front of the ball.
Tampa Bay made Young the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. He was traded to Minnesota in November 2007 for RHP Matt Garza and SS Jason Bartlett, two key pieces of the 2008 championship season. Young said he’s happy and somewhat humbled to return to his original organization.
“Just because you always think your career is going to go one way,” he said. “But you don’t predict that you’re going to have injuries that slow you down. You think you’re going to come in, you’re going to play, you’re going to be healthy and you’re going to have a lot of fun. But there’s an injury bug out there and sometimes you’re not going to play as well as you’re capable of.”
Now that’s a compliment
Maddon said he did not pinch-run Saturday night for 1B James Loney because he was out of pinch-runners.
Last season in Philadelphia, Maddon used RHP Chris Archer to pinch-run. Maddon said those days are over for Archer, now that he is one of the top pitchers on the staff.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, not for personal reasons, but to help the team,” Archer said. “I’m multidimensional, so I’d like to be able to use it some time, but they told me (Saturday) that it wouldn’t be worth it, and that means a lot, too. It means more than actually going out there and pinch-running.”
Loney drove in the Rays’ lone run with his 11th home run of the season and the first by a Ray in seven games. … Loney, CF Desmond Jennings and A’s SS Jed Lowrie had trouble with the sun and wind Sunday while trying unsuccessfully to catch pop-ups. Jennings was charged with his second error in six days when he dropped a fly ball in the seventh.