The Tampa Bay Rays were looking to forget all the events from Thursday: the news regarding an idea to split home games between Tampa and Montreal, and what was the team's most dispiriting loss of the season, a 5-4 heartbreaker in which the Rays blew a three-run ninth-inning lead.
And forget they did, as the Rays used key defensive plays and got solid relief pitching, pulling out a 5-3 nail-biter over the Oakland A's Friday night in Oakland.
The game was scoreless until the third, when the Rays opened the scoring. Joey Wendle led off with a walk and was forced out at second on a grounder to third by Guillermo Heredia. Brandon Lowe doubled Heredia home, and advanced to third on an error by A's center fielder Ramon Laureano. Lowe then scored on the very next pitch on a passed ball by Oakland catcher Josh Phegley.
Oakland got a run back in the bottom of the third on a home run to deep center field by A's first baseman Matt Olson off Jalen Beeks, who relieved the Rays' opener of the night, Andrew Kittredge.
The Rays returned the favor in the fourth, extending their lead back to two. Kevin Kiermaier led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to second on a single by Willy Adames. Wendle and Heredia followed with back-to-back fielder's choices, Heredia's scoring Kiermaier from third, with force outs made at second on each play.
In the bottom of the inning, Beeks once again was victimized by the long ball, as this time, Laureano led off the inning by putting one in the left field seats, returning the Rays' lead to one.
In the fifth, the Rays brought in Austin Pruitt, who held the A's scoreless through the seventh inning, earning his first win of the season.
And in the sixth, Adames extended the Rays' lead back to two with a solo home run, his seventh, to the left field seats, and in the bottom of the inning, the Rays' defense shined. Khris Davis led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, and with one out, Jurickson Profar lined a shot down the third base line into the left field corner. Tommy Pham relayed the ball to Adames, who threw a dart to catcher Travis d'Arnaud, nailing Davis at the plate. Stephen Piscotty then hit a grounder to Lowe, who dove for the ball, got to his feet quickly, and threw low to Ji-Man Choi, who scooped the ball out of the dirt for the final out.
Oakland narrowed the Rays' lead in the bottom of the eighth, when Thursday's hero, Matt Chapman, led off the inning with a double off Pruitt, prompting Rays' manager Kevin Cash to bring in Colin Poche, who immediately surrendered an RBI double to Olson. This led to Cash summoning the slumping Chaz Roe, who rewarded Cash's faith by forcing the dangerous Davis to ground out, and getting Laureano on a called third strike. Cash once again went to his bullpen, calling on Oliver Drake to retire Profar on a grounder to Adames.
The Rays added an insurance run in the ninth as Lowe doubled home Adames, who led off the inning with a single, to give the Rays the final cushion.
After Drake surrendered a leadoff walk to Piscotty and struck out Robbie Grossman in the ninth, Emilio Pagan earned his fourth save by getting pinch hitter Mark Canha and shortstop Marcus Semien to ground out.
*Adames and Lowe each had three hits on the night.
*Oakland left 18 runners on base; the Rays has 13 left on base.
*The third game of the series will take place Saturday at 4:07 p.m. Kevin Cash said after the game that he'll give the ball to Yonny Chirinos (7-3, 3.00 ERA), who will face Mike Fiers (7-3, 4.38 ERA).
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Rays