Two teams that have attempted to use speed to their advantage with mixed results conclude a four-game run Thursday afternoon when the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics complete their season series
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The Rays posted a 6-3 victory on Wednesday, their first win in three games at Oakland after recording a three-game sweep of the A’s in Florida from April 7-9
Tampa Bay arrived in Oakland on Monday not only with baseball’s best record but also with the league’s highest stolen-base total. After successfully stealing two bags on Monday in a 4-3 loss, the Rays had a key runner gunned down in a 2-1 defeat on Tuesday when Oakland catcher Shea Langeliers threw out Randy Arozarena for the second out of the ninth inning
A half-inning earlier, Oakland’s Ramon Laureano had stolen third base with one out in a tie game, enabling him to score what turned out to be the difference-making run on an infield out.
The A’s, who have the fourth-most steals in the majors, added three more thefts on Wednesday. They also got three outs on Tampa Bay steal attempts, two of which followed pickoff throws.
However, the Rays kept on running, and wound up scoring twice in a three-run fifth inning that included two steals
The big frame erased a 3-1 deficit and helped Tampa Bay end a two-game losing streak that matched its season worst.
“That’s what good offenses do,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said about his team’s penchant for steals. “When it’s presented, when there’s an opening, we have shown a knack for really taking advantage. It’s a constant carryover, and that’s what we have done all season.
The pitcher tasked with keeping the Tampa Bay running opportunities at a minimum in the series finale will be A’s right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-0, 3.60 ERA). He threw six shutout innings in his latest start, Saturday against the Brewers in Milwaukee, but didn’t get a decision in Oakland’s 2-1, 10-inning win.
The 29-year-old was nearly as good when limiting the Atlanta Braves to one run and four hits in four innings in his season debut on May 29, his only previous home start this year. He missed the first two months of the season with a broken fingernail and subsequent blister on his throwing hand.
Blackburn will be making his third career start against the Rays, having gone 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA over 9 1/3 innings in his previous two appearances
The Rays are expected to go with Taj Bradley (4-3, 4.19). The rookie right-hander has struggled with his control in his past two starts, in which he beat the host Boston Red Sox 6-2 on June 4 before losing to the Texas Rangers 8-4 at home on Saturday. He allowed 10 hits and seven walks in 8 2/3 combined innings in those games
Bradley, 22, has never faced the A’s, who saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday.
“Offensively we got guys out there all night. We just couldn’t get the big hit,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “We’ve been successful in those situations and we’ve been winning. But tonight we just couldn’t get the job done on the offensive side.”
–Field Level Media