MLB: A’s look to make Rays’ homestand difficult again

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Though they sit in fourth place in the American League West and sport a minus-60 run differential, the Oakland Athletics showed Tuesday night why they have to be taken seriously, particularly in close games.

After taking the opener of their three-game series with Tampa Bay 3-0 behind a strong start from Mitch Spence and a three-run homer from Miguel Andujar in the sixth inning, the A’s will look to capture the series from the Rays on Wednesday evening in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The A’s have a pretty good chance with stopper Mason Miller in their bullpen.

Miller, 25, has emerged as one of baseball’s top closers, a flame-throwing right-hander who is 11-for-11 in saves over 19 outings in 2024.

The Pittsburgh native has a 1.88 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. The 2021 third-round selection (No. 97 overall) from tiny Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., has produced stunning velocity.

According to the TV broadcast of the game, Miller entered Tuesday’s contest having fired 105 pitches of at least 101 mph, while the rest of the majors had totaled 136. Of those 105, 38 were at least 102 mph, and five clocked in at 103 mph or more.

He added to those totals in the ninth inning Tuesday, hitting triple digits on 19 of his 27 pitches used to record his 11th save.

As a 20-year-old, Miller was told he had Type 1 diabetes following a urine test, and he set out to be a role model for children combating the condition.

He spends much of his spare time with young fans signing autographs and discussing the youngsters’ obstacles with the disease.

“I’m in a unique position where I have a chance to impact kids that deal with the same condition I do,” the fireballer said pregame on Tuesday. “Being diagnosed older and being around other kids that were being diagnosed … (they were) mostly 6 to 14. I think it’s on my shoulders and my responsibility, given the position I’m in, to be a role model to them.

“It’s an opportunity for me to be a person that those kids can look to as an inspiration in baseball or anything else in the world.”

Meanwhile, the Rays mustered only three singles on Tuesday, including one by Yandy Diaz with two outs in the ninth, and fell to 1-6 on their nine-game homestand after being shut out for the third time, all this month.

“Yeah, I was a career .180 hitter; I experienced it for eight years,” replied Rays manager Kevin Cash when asked if he had been around a hitting slump like the current one. “We’ve had stretches like this in the past … We had a really rough month of July last year.

“Guys are grinding through and feeling it right now. … These are our guys. They’re good players and are going to get out of it.”

On Wednesday, Oakland will hand the ball to Joey Estes (1-1, 7.47 ERA), who will make his fourth career start and first ever against the Rays.

Last Thursday, the right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits in seven innings in a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies.

Tampa Bay will counter with Ryan Pepiot (3-2, 3.98 ERA) in his ninth start this season and first of his career against Oakland.

In his past two starts, the right-hander has surrendered six runs on five hits in six innings, both resulting in no-decisions.

–Field Level Media

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