OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Tampa Bay hasn’t been so close to first place this late in the season since 2013, and Rays manager Kevin Cash wants his players to soak it up and enjoy every minute of it.
The roar that emerged from the clubhouse following Tampa Bay’s ninth-inning comeback was proof that the Rays are doing just that.
Adeiny Hechavarria and Shane Peterson hit consecutive two-out RBI singles off closer Santiago Casilla in the ninth inning and Tampa Bay rallied to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Tuesday night.
The win kept the Rays two games behind Boston in the AL East – the closest they’ve been to the top since Aug. 26, 2013.
“It might come down to one game, two games,” Peterson said. “At the end of the season, we realize this game tonight could have been the game that gets us over. I don’t think it’s going to burn us out. That’s just how we are as a team.”
Steven Souza Jr. hit his second home run in two games while Logan Morrison walked and scored, helping the Rays to their fifth win in six games against the A’s.
Casilla (2-4) opened the ninth by retiring Evan Longoria on a grounder and getting Morrison to strike out swinging. Wilson Ramos then singled and pinch-runner Mallex Smith took second on a wild pitch. After Smith stole third, Casilla walked Brad Miller before Hechavarria singled to right to drive in the tying run.
Peterson, in his second stint with the Rays this season, followed with his winning hit.
“We see where we’re at in the standings, we see who we’re competing against,” Cash said. “Two outs in the ninth against a guy that has closed a bunch of ballgames in his career, to find a way to win, that’s what makes it special.”
Khris Davis hit his 27th home run for the A’s.
Adam Kolarek (1-0) retired one batter for his first major league win. Alex Colome pitched the ninth to complete the four-hitter for his AL-best 28th save.
Casilla’s ninth-inning meltdown spoiled an outstanding outing by A’s starter Chris Smith, who was in line for his first win since 2008.
Smith allowed one earned run and three hits and retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced in his second career start. The 36-year-old right-hander, whose only win came as a reliever with Boston, struck out four and walked two.
“It’s disappointing, but we have to move on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You’re going to have games like that.”
Cash was ejected for the third time this season by home plate umpire Bill Welke in the fifth inning after Souza struck out looking as part of a double play. “We didn’t agree on the strike zone tonight early on,” Cash said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Matt Chapman’s fielding error in the second inning led to Tampa Bay’s first run, but Oakland’s rookie third baseman made up for it with a pair of defensive gems later in the game. Chapman made a spinning stop of a sharp grounder by Ramos then threw to first for the final out in the sixth. He followed that up in the ninth with a diving grab of Evan Longoria’s liner down the third base line and made a strong throw for the out.
Rays: INF Rickie Weeks (right shoulder impingement) began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham. … RHP Nathan Eovaldi threw off a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016.
Athletics: OF Jake Smolinski, out since spring training after undergoing right shoulder surgery, took batting practice before the game. Smolinski’s injury was initially thought to be season-ending. … RHP Ryan Dull (strained right knee) could come off the DL when the team returns from its upcoming road trip July 28.
RHP Sonny Gray (5-4, 3.72 ERA) pitches the finale for the A’s on Wednesday afternoon as his name continues to appear in trade rumors. Gray has won three of his previous four starts. The Rays will counter with RHP Jake Faria (4-0, 2.00 ERA), who has seven consecutive quality starts to begin his career.
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