In his last two starts, Jeremy Hellickson has now struck out 11 while walking 1 in 12 innings. But the difference this time around was two Oakland Athletics home runs and the Rays’ offense was unable to overcome Hellickson’s poor outing as the A’s won 4-2.
The Athletics tagged Hellickson for 3 runs in the first inning, and the Rays were demoralized from the start. The A’s had 1st and 3rd with no outs after a Coco Crisp double and a Stephen Drew single to begin the game before Hellickson rebounded by getting Yoennis Cespedes to pop out. Then, on a 3-2 pitch to Seth Smith, Drew broke for second and Jose Lobaton‘s throw went into the outfield, scoring Crisp to make it 1-0 A’s and putting Drew on 3rd. Hellicskon struck out Smith on the pitch and was 1 out away from escaping the jam having allowed just one run, but he left his first-pitch changeup to Chris Carter up in the zone and Carter slammed a 2-run homer into the left field seats and suddenly the A’s led 3-0.
The Rays looked to tie the game in the 2nd inning after a Luke Scott bunt single with the A’s shifting against him, a Carlos Pena hit-by-pitch, and a Ryan Roberts single gave them the bases loaded with nobody out. Lobaton then gained a measure of redemption for his error with a sac fly to make it 3-1. But Desmond Jennings flied out and Sam Fuld struck out as the Rays stranded a pair of runners. The Rays then lost any momentum they may have gained when Seth Smith slammed a solo homer off Hellickson leading off the 3rd to make it 4-1 Oakland. The Rays got the run back in the 5th on a Desmond Jennings solo homer, but they managed nothing else the rest of the game as the game’s 4-2 score after 5 innings was also the final.
Hellickson went 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking none but allowing the 2 home runs. Hellickson’s bread-and-butter changeup was a little off at times over the course of his outing, specifically on the Carter home run, and unlike his last start, his curveball was a pitch that he struggled to control, throwing it for strikes just 9 of the 19 times he threw it. Brandon McCarthy went 7 innings for Oakland allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2.
The Rays bullpen was great in the game, combining for 4 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and no walks while striking out 5, including Jake McGee striking out the side in the 9th, but it was too little, too late as the Rays lost 4-2. McCarthy (7-5) was the winner, Hellickson (8-9) took the loss, and ex-Ray Grant Balfour nailed down his 14th save. It was a tough loss for the Rays as they lost 2 of 3 to the Oakland Athletics saw their lead in the AL Wild Card fall to just half a game over the A’s and 1 game over the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays have a bizarre Sunday off-day thanks to rescheduling to work around the Republican National Convention in Tampa and will resume play on Monday against the Texas Rangers in a crucial 3-game set as they look to get back on track.