C.J. Cron and Willy Adames hit home runs to back the four-hit combined effort of eight pitchers Sunday afternoon, sending the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 triumph over the Oakland Athletics in the finale of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.
By sweeping a pair from Oakland over the weekend after a series-opening loss on Friday night, the Rays (82-66) kept alive their slim hopes in the American League wild-card race, where they trail the A’s (90-60) by seven games with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
At the same time, the Rays wrapped up the season series from the A’s with a 5-2 edge in a battle between two of the top candidates for AL Manager of the Year: Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash and Oakland’s Bob Melvin.
The Rays held on for the win after taking a 5-0 lead into the ninth. Khris Davis greeted closer Sergio Romo with a first-pitch grand slam one out after Jake Faria had walked Matt Joyce, Nick Martini and Matt Chapman to open the inning.
Romo then struck out Matt Olson and got Stephen Piscotty to fly out to claim his 21st save.
Despite the loss, the A’s remained just 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees (91-58) in the duel for the first AL wild card. The Yankees lost to Toronto 3-2 on Sunday.
Cron teed off on A’s starter Mike Fiers (12-7) with two outs in the first inning for his 27th home run of the season. Ji-Man Choi, who reached base on a forceout, also scored on the blast to left field.
Adames also connected off Fiers in the fourth inning, another solo shot that made it 3-0. It was his ninth homer of the season.
Fiers, who had been 5-0 and the A’s 7-0 in his starts since being acquired from Detroit last month, was pulled after four innings, having allowed three runs and four hits. He walked three and struck out two in an 80-pitch struggle.
Diego Castillo, who struck out four in a perfect two innings as the starter in the series opener Friday, returned to throw a 1-2-3 first with two strikeouts on Sunday.
Andrew Kittredge (3-2), the winner pitcher in relief on Saturday, was credited with the win after holding the A’s scoreless and hitless, with one walk, in the second and third innings.
Hunter Wood, Jaime Schultz and Adam Kolarek followed Kittredge and combined to take a three-hit shutout into the ninth before Faria’s three walks gave the A’s hope.
As a staff, the Rays walked four and struck out six.
Brandon Lowe seemingly busted the game open with a two-run triple in the seventh off the fourth Oakland pitcher, Emilio Pagan. The hit scored Duffy, who had doubled, and Cron, who had walked.
Lowe and Cron drove in two runs apiece, while Cron and Adames had two hits each for the Rays, who completed a 7-2 homestand and have won 11 of their last 14 games overall.
Davis’ home run was his 43rd of the season for the A’s, who completed a 3-3 trip with the third loss in their last four games.
Olson collected two of Oakland’s four hits.
—Field Level Media