MLB: Rays put ‘all-encompassing’ struggles up against A’s


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The Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays meet for the first time this season Tuesday night at the start of a three-game series at St. Petersburg, Fla., that matches a pair of clubs trending in opposite directions.

In Oakland’s 112-loss campaign in 2023, not much went right on or off the field. This season, though, manager Mark Kotsay’s club is playing much better baseball and is out of last place, at least for the time being.

Last week, during a six-game homestand, the American League West’s fourth-place team split its six games and two series, taking two of three from the Colorado Rockies before dropping two against the Houston Astros.

In Sunday’s 5-2 setback in the home finale, shortstop Max Schuemann bobbled an easy two-out grounder in the fourth inning, committing two errors on the play and watching five runs (four unearned) cross the plate as the Astros went on to win the series.

Kotsay said key miscues hampered his group in both defeats against Houston.

“The play is made and it’s a one-run game,” Kotsay said of Schuemann’s gaffe. “It really impacted the game. Physical errors are going to happen. Nobody is trying to go out there and make an error. Max has played a good shortstop. … You look back on Friday’s loss, we had one (bad) inning. Today, we had one inning that let the game slip away from us.”

Like the A’s, Tampa Bay finds itself near the bottom of its division — fourth in the AL East, leading only the struggling Toronto Blue Jays. Injuries have played a role in the Rays’ struggles.

Against Kansas City on Sunday, Brandon Lowe hit a three-run triple that helped the Rays earn a 4-1 victory to salvage the final game of the series.

During their struggles this season, the Rays are finding it hard to win at home, which has not been the case during manager Kevin Cash’s tenure.

Entering the season, the AL East squad had a reputation for defending its turf and playing 8 1/2-inning games.

Since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Rays held a 176-96 mark (.647 winning percentage) at home, but this year’s struggles have led to a 15-17 record including 1-5 on the current nine-game homestand.

“We’re not getting it done,” Cash said. “Every facet of it. I mean, we’re expanding on pitches that we probably can’t handle. The pitches we can handle, we’re not doing any damage with. We’re not able to piece too much together right now. So I mean, it’s kind of all-encompassing.”

In his 11th start, Rays right-hander Zack Littell (2-2, 3.42 ERA) will take the ball in the series opener. It is the first of seven matchups with the A’s this season.

Littell’s last two starts were no-decisions against the Boston Red Sox when he combined to allow six earned runs in 10 2/3 innings with two homers.

Over nine career appearances against the A’s, all in relief, the right-hander is 0-0 with a 4.00 ERA.

Oakland is expected to start rookie right-hander Mitch Spence (3-2, 4.09) for the first game of its six-game road trip.

–Field Level Media


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