07/23/08 12:40 AM ET
Rays' offense falters in loss to A's
Sonnanstine pitches seven solid innings, striking out five
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
A two-run deficit looks a four-touchdown deficit to the Rays these days. That's just how it goes when a team isn't hitting.
Any skepticism about the Rays' offense proved to be well-founded Tuesday night. Leading by two runs entering the eighth, the A's added four more during an inning that saw Carl Crawford make a throwing error and Trever Miller throw a wild pitch. The A's added another run in the ninth, compliments of a throwing error by shortstop Ben Zobrist. Meanwhile, the Rays' offense did not score after the third as the A's took an 8-1 win in front of a crowd of 16,800 at Tropicana Field.
Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays and made one mistake in seven innings when he surrendered a three-run homer to Jack Hannahan in the fourth.
"Fastball, outer half, I don't think it was a bad pitch," Sonnanstine said. "I think he just pretty much guessed right in that situation and put a pretty good swing on it."
Hannahan found a spot in the A's lineup for the single reason that he had homered against the Rays' right-hander when the teams met earlier in the season in Oakland.
"It's one of those things, I can't put my finger on it, but I do see his ball real well," Hannahan said. "I see his offspeed stuff out of his hand real well. ... Any time you have some success against someone, it's good when you get to see him again."
The blast put the Rays down, 3-1, and made any hopes for a comeback seem remote to anyone watching the game other than the players in the home team's dugout.
"Actually, I was pretty optimistic we were going to get back and win that ballgame," Carlos Pena said. "But they rallied and scored some runs. The game got kind of one-sided there. But 3-1, I thought we were going to come from behind and win that game until later on when it got lopsided."
The Rays went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position; over their last 12 games they are hitting .124 (11-for-89) with runners in scoring position. The fact Rays hitters don't seem to do too well against left-handed pitching didn't help matters Tuesday night, either.
A's left-hander Dallas Braden made his first start of the season and the 15th start of his career and allowed one run in five innings, which was the first time he had lasted five innings since Aug. 6 in Texas; each of his previous five starts before Tuesday night (all in 2007) lasted less than five innings.
Even when the Rays scored Tuesday night, they shot themselves in the foot. After loading the bases in the third with one out, Pena hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored the game's first run. A's left fielder Matt Murton alertly threw behind Crawford at second, catching him off the base. The ensuing rundown saw Crawford get tagged out for the third out to effectively end the inning.
"Their guy, we got his pitch count up, we saw a lot of pitches, we had a lot of good at-bats, we were unable to score runs," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We just have to do a better job with it. ... We just have to stay with it and we're going to get better with it. I'm very certain of that."
Jerry Blevins took over to pitch a scoreless sixth inning to keep the Rays' bats in check before submarine-throwing rookie Brad Ziegler entered the game, bringing his 21 2/3 scoreless innings with him. Ziegler did not allow a run in two innings, establishing a new American League scoreless-innings streak for pitchers beginning their careers.
Sonnanstine stood behind the team's offense, despite its lack of support.
"I think our offense will come around," Sonnanstine said. "They are not going to put up seven runs every single day, but if we gradually get better I think we will have a great second half."
The Rays could not get around the fact that they played a subpar game on Tuesday night, but Maddon wasn't anywhere near pressing the panic button.
"We had a nice game [Monday], everybody was happy," Maddon said. "We had a bad game [Tuesday], everybody's not so happy. I don't normally ride that roller coaster."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.