Aided by three home runs, right-hander Charlie Morton extended his unbeaten streak to 21 games with seven shutout innings Monday night, as the host Tampa Bay Rays opened a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics with a 6-2 victory.
Brandon Lowe, Kevin Kiermaier and Ji-Man Choi hit two-run homers, helping the Rays prevail in their first meeting of the season with the A’s.
Morton (8-0) struggled early, but retired the last 14 batters he faced before turning a 4-0 lead over to the Tampa bullpen. The veteran, whose unbeaten streak began last August against Oakland, allowed just two hits and two walks in his seven innings. He struck out seven.
Morton, who has gone 11-0 in his run, left a shutout in the sixth inning or later for the fifth time this season. He had blanked Detroit on five hits over seven innings in his previous start.
The A’s had two on and one out in the first, then the bases loaded with one out in the third, but couldn’t cash in either time.
Meanwhile, right-hander Tanner Anderson (0-1), making his A’s debut, matched Morton pitch-for-pitch for five innings, taking a two-hit shutout into the bottom of the sixth in a scoreless game.
But he walked Austin Meadows, just his second walk of the game, to open the sixth. Two batters later, Lowe blasted his home run for a 2-0 lead.
The homer was Lowe’s third in two days and 14th of the season.
Anderson, promoted from Triple-A to make the start, was pulled one out later. He was charged with two runs on three hits in his 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
The Rays tacked on in the seventh off Yusmeiro Petit when Yandy Diaz doubled and Kiermaier followed with his eighth homer of the season, increasing the lead to 4-0.
Choi’s homer, his seventh of the season, came in the eighth against Oakland’s fourth pitcher, Joakim Soria. It also scored Avisail Garcia, who had singled.
The A’s avoided a shutout in the ninth when Mark Canha walked, Stephen Piscotty doubled for one run and Robbie Grossman singled for another.
Kiermaier and Choi had two hits apiece for the Rays, who finished seven games behind the A’s in their battle for the American League’s second wild-card playoff spot last season.
Marcus Semien collected two hits for the A’s, who saw their record on a 10-game trip fall to 4-4.
—Field Level Media