Back-to-back smashes lead A’s past Rays

Olson, Davis hit homers in sixth inning to put A's up and carry them to 4-3 win

Oakland Athletics’ Khris Davis watches his home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Emilio Pagan during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Just when it seemed the A’s had their backs to the wall, they went back-to-back — over the wall — and that sudden turnaround produced a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

The A’s hit consecutive sixth-inning home runs off Rays reliever and loser Emilio Pagan (1-1), first a two-run go-ahead shot by Matt Olson, then a solo blast from Khris Davis.

That ultimately made a winner out of right-hander Mike Fiers (6-3), who allowed just three hits and retired the last seven batters he faced.

Fiers was followed by three relievers, including closer Blake Treinen, who made the ninth inning interesting by issuing a four-pitch walk to Brandon Lowe, then going 2-0 to Yandy Diaz.

Treinen settled down to strike out Diaz and get a grounder from Ji-Man Choi, but Willy Adames made it a one-run deficit with a two-out RBI single. Kevin Kiermaier was then retired on a game-ending grounder to Olson at first.

The A’s are back at .500 (34-34) and now can clinch a winning record for the three-city, 10-game trip by defeating the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. With the Rangers defeating the Red Sox, the A’s remained three games behind in the American League wild-card race.

“We really haven’t hit our stride yet,’’ A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “As poorly as we’ve played in different facets, to be at .500 right now is not where we want to be, but it’s not the end of the world right now. I think we have a lot of room for improvement.’’

The Rays, who utilized opener’ Ryne Stanek (one scoreless inning) and bulk pitcher Jalen Beeks (an unearned run over four innings), entered the sixth nursing a 2-1 lead.

With one out against Pagan, Matt Chapman bounced a routine grounder in the hole to Adames at shortstop. The throw was bounced to first baseman Choi, who kept his foot on the bag, but bobbled the ball during his stretch.

Olson followed with a two-run homer on Pagan’s 2-0 pitch, providing the A’s their first lead of the series at 3-2. On Pagan’s second pitch to Davis, it was another homer.

From the fifth inning through the eighth, Fiers and the A’s bullpen — Liam Hendricks and Lou Trivino — retired 13 consecutive Rays batters. Seven of those outs came by strikeout.

The Rays opened the scoring on Tommy Pham’s first-inning solo home. They pulled ahead 2-0 while executing a double steal with two outs in the fourth inning. With runners on first and third, Kiermaier broke for second and the throw by catcher Josh Phegley was off-line, allowing Adames to come home without a challenge.

Then the game turned quickly.

The A’s got one run back in the fifth. Jurickson Profar led off with a single, then moved to second on Mike Zunino’s passed ball. One out later, Chad Pinder collected an RBI single, making it 2-1.

After a sixth-inning power surge — and late-game shutdown pitching by most of the bullpen — the A’s grabbed momentum and kept it for good.

Here are some observations from the A’s come-from-behind victory on Tuesday night:

A winning road trip? What??

From Anaheim to Texas to St. Petersburg — mixed in with a well-chronicled charter plane mishap and lengthy delay — it has not been the recipe for road-trip bliss. But now the A’s can finish 6-4 in the 10-game swing before heading home.

That could become an especially meaningful sequence by season’s end.

“This has not been an ideal road trip, travel-wise, but there’s nothing we can do about that,’’ Olson said. “We show up to the field and compete. Maybe get an extra cup of coffee or Red Bull.’’

“Travel is travel,’’ Fiers said. “I’m never going to use travel as an excuse. Things happen. You’ve got to cope with it.’’

And speaking of the road …

The A’s are 11-4 on the road since May 16 after a 5-15 start away from home this season.

The A’s, back in a good rhythm, were 47-34 last season on the road, tying for the third-best mark in the majors.

“Last year, we were a really good road team,’’ Olson said. “We’re ready to play no matter where it is.’’

Fiers is on fire

Fiers is 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA and a batting average of .163 from opponents in his past seven starts, beginning with his no-hitter on May 7. In his first eight starts, he was 2-3 with a 6.81 ERA.

“It’s basically what we’ve been seeing for his last (seven) starts,’’ Melvin said. “If you can hold a team like that and pitch six innings like that, it’s all good. He was really consistent. He got better as the game went along. It was another strong outing from him.’’

It didn’t start well after Pham’s first-inning solo homer, but Fiers settled in nicely.

“Solo homers don’t beat you,’’ Fiers said. “I made a mistake, middle-middle (to Pham), and paid for it. After that, it was just go deep in the game as I can, get off the field as quick as possible every inning.’’

Big hits for Davis

Davis was scuffling mightily against the Rays, hitless in his first six at-bats during the series, leaving eight runners on base, striking out four times, hitting into a double play.

And then?

In the sixth, Davis smacked his 14th homer, a solo shot, giving the A’s a 4-2 advantage. It was his 147th homer since 2016 (most in the majors during that span). He followed with a ninth-inning single.

“They were playing like nine outfielders (actually four) for him, so if he didn’t hit it over the fence, it might have been caught,’’ Melvin said. “Similar to the way we’ve played, he has been back and forth.

“He’s had some injuries and struggles, like we all have, then he ends up getting you some big hits. When you’re facing a good pitching staff, you’ve got to drive something when you get a mistake and he did.’’

The bullpen delivers

The A’s bullpen had a pair of shutout innings before Treinen surrendered a run in the ninth. Liam Hendricks was particularly impressive in striking out the side (on 12 pitches) in the seventh.

Hendricks has not allowed a run in 16 of his last 18 games, sporting a 1.25 ERA during that stretch.

“He not only moved himself up as the seventh, eighth or ninth (inning) guy, but he’s a guy we’ll bring in with guys on base,’’ Melvin said. “He has been outstanding.’’

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