(ST. PETERSBURG, FL)—All it took was a little offense for the Oakland Athletics to win consecutive games for just the second time this season. That, and some vintage Sonny Gray on the mound, led the A’s to a 7-2 win today at Tropicana Field and a surprising split of the four-game road series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Gray tossed five shutout innings before leaving with an ankle contusion, and the A’s stroked three home runs in the former Thunderdome to cruise to victory. It all started with leadoff hitter Billy Burns hitting his first major-league home run on the first pitch of the game, and Gray reverted to form to get the win, allowing just four base runners.
He did take a sharp grounder off his right ankle in the fourth inning, but Gray stayed in the game a little longer before being replaced for cautionary reasons by Dan Otero. The much-maligned Otero threw two scoreless innings, before Fernando Rodriguez allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Those runs didn’t matter, for once, as Mark Canha hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to give the A’s a big cushion, and when Josh Reddick added a solo shot in the seventh, it was 6-0. Stephen Vogt added a sacrifice fly in the ninth for the final Oakland runs, the second of two for the A’s catcher on the day.
The A’s hadn’t won back-to-back games since mid-April in Houston, watching themselves spiral deep down into the basement of MLB in the interim. This was actually the third chance in his last three starts for Gray to secure a consecutive win for Oakland, and he came through this time.
This win improves the team record to 16-30 and sends the A’s home with some happy momentum for once, after this 3-4 road trip through Houston and Tampa Bay. Oakland will host the Detroit Tigers tomorrow on Memorial Day in the first of a three-game set before welcoming the New York Yankees for a four-game set starting Thursday evening.
The Rays are in first place in the American League East, leading the Yankees by just a game at press time. The Tigers are three games behind the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. Oakland is dead last in the AL West, trailing the Astros by 13 games, pending the outcome of the Houston-Detroit game this afternoon.
Therefore, it should boost the confidence of the A’s that much more knowing they split on the road against a division winner as they get ready to host two contending teams back at home this week. Oakland is 11-16 on the road—but just 5-14 at the O.co Coliseum, a mark the team would love to work on successfully in the upcoming seven days.
For now, though, the A’s can revel in this small piece of progress and work next toward actually winning another short series. It’s a long season, and anything can happen, but Oakland has to start showing they can play well consistently now before anyone starts taking them seriously again as AL West contenders.