A’s again find life on the road unforgiving in finale at Tampa Bay

June 11, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

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Oakland Athletics reliever Daniel Coulombe tags out Tampa Bay Rays’ Tim Beckham after he was caught in a run down between first and second base during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 11, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

By Morris Phillips

Simply, the A’s need to travel better than this.

All of what ails the AL’s worst team on the road resurfaced on Sunday in Tampa Bay: blown leads, substandard defense, offense, but without a keen sense of timing. A 3-0 lead evaporated, a game-tying rally fell short, and the A’s fell for the third time in four games at Tropicana Field, 5-4 to the Rays.

Oakland fell to 9-23 on the road, easily the worst road record in the American League, and they remain 16 1/2 games off the pace of the AL West-leading Astros, who suffered a rare loss on Sunday to the visiting Angels.

And what’s worse? On Sunday, it could have all been avoided.

Stephen Vogt singled home a pair of runs in the second, and doubled home a run in the fourth to stake the A’s to their 3-0 lead. For Vogt, who ignominiously began his major league-career as a Ray in 2012, and went 0 for 25, and was traded to Oakland in the spring of 2013 before he ever recorded a hit for Tampa Bay, the early offense provided redemption likely as much as did his consecutive All-Star appearances for Oakland in 2015 and 2016.

Jesse Hahn kept Tampa at bay until the fifth, where the righthander experienced a most unusual inning. After striking out Tim Beckham and former Athletic Derek Norris, Hahn allowed doubles to Daniel Robertson, Mallex Smith and Corey Dickerson, trimming the A’s lead to 3-2. Evan Longoria’s single was the fourth consecutive hit, and that tied the game. A fifth consecutive hit followed, but Hahn escaped further damage by retiring Steven Souza Jr. to end the inning.

Hahn would settle for a no-decision, allowing three runs on seven hits in five innings of work. Hahn’s outing marked the 11th consecutive road start in which he has not recorded a win, undoubtedly making the pitcher–at least for now–the poster child for the A’s struggles away from home.

The teams would exchange runs in the sixth. First, Khris Davis’ RBI single scored Jed Lowrie, then Colby Rasmus responded for the Jays with a mammoth home run off Liam Hendriks. That set the stage for the bottom of the seventh, and the A’s biggest mistake of the afternoon.

Smith, batting leadoff, laid down a near perfect bunt that left first baseman Yonder Alonso unable to field it or cover the bag. ¬†Reliever Daniel Coloumbe rushed over to field it, but uncorked a wild throw that eluded Lowrie. Smith raced to third on the throwing error, and scored two pitches later on Dickerson’s sacrifice fly.

Coloumbe’s throwing gaffe would register as the A’s MLB-leading 62 error.

In the ninth, the A’s loaded the bases with one out, but closer Alex Colome induced Lowrie to pop out, then struck out Davis to end the game.

“We were in the last three games,” Vogt said. “We felt like we had a good chance to win all three of those, and obviously came up short in two of them.”

The A’s have Monday off, before resuming their road trip in Miami with a matchup with the Marlins. Jharel Cotton will face the Marlins’ Jose Urena in that one.

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