OAKLAND – Drew Smyly sat at his locker late Tuesday afternoon and looked at a scouting report of the A’s batters while on a flat-screen TV behind him David Price made his much heralded debut with the Tigers.
Smyly’s debut with the Rays didn’t command a nationwide TV audience. He didn’t pitch a gem. Heck, he didn’t even get the win.
But Smyly kept the Rays in the game for nearly six innings and with some help from his offense, who knows?
Instead, it was the A’s that came up with the key hits for a second straight night and beat the Rays 3-0.
“We had our opportunities early,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We had base runners all over the place, and that’s the thing, when you don’t hit like that, it really looks as though you might not be fully there. We just got to get those knocks. A couple of knocks right there and the guys are flying around like the (Flying) Wallendas.”
Right now the Rays aren’t flying anywhere.
Tuesday’s loss was their third straight and fifth in their last six games. They are 10 ½ games behind the first-place Orioles in the AL East and 5 ½ games out of the second AL Wild Card spot with 48 games to play.
It was the 14th time the Rays have been shut out this season.
They end this six-game run this afternoon against the Angels and A’s – the teams that have the second-best and best records in the major leagues, respectively.
Tuesday’s loss was notable for two reasons: Smyly didn’t seem phased by changing teams after the trade deadline move that flipped him and Price and the Rays pitching staff recorded their 1,000th strikeout of the season, getting there faster than any team in major-league history.
They Rays needed 113 games, while the previous record holder, the 2013 Tigers, needed 114.
Smyly allowed seven hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings. But it was a scoreless game until Coco Crisp singled home Alberto Callaspo with one out in the fifth inning.
“I thought he did pretty well, actually, right up until that hit by (Nate) Freiman,” Maddon said. “He kept them in check, made pretty good pitches when he had to.”
That hit was a run-scoring double by the A’s first baseman in the sixth inning that made it a 2-0 game. A throwing error by Yunel Escobar allowed Freiman to advance to third. From there, Freiman easily scored on a single through a drawn in infield by Josh Reddick.
Smyly said after some initial jitters, Tuesday felt like all the other games he pitched at the major-league level even if those games were with the Tigers.
“Warming up in the first inning you have a little butterflies, it feels different,” he said. “First game with the new team you want to do well, but once you get out of the first it’s the same-old, same-old. It’s just pitching.”
Smyly’s welcome-to-Joe Maddon moment came in the fourth inning when Maddon ordered him to walk Freiman even though Freiman was batting with a 2-2 count. Sam Fuld and Josh Donaldson had just pulled off a double steal to put runners at second and third with two outs.
Maddon ordered the move because he felt Smyly matched up better with the left-handed Reddick, who was on deck. The lefties were batting .176 against the left-handed Smyly prior to the game.
“That’s the manager’s call,” Smyly said. “He thought it would help, and it ended up being the right call.”
Smyly got Reddick to pop up to second base to end the inning.
When asked if he was ever ordered to intentionally walk a batter with two strikes, Smyly said, “I don’t think so.”
The Rays had seven hits and drew four walks against former Rays pitcher Jason Hammel between the second and fourth innings and came away empty.
“That’s been our biggest issue, the ability to drive in runs,” Maddon said. “We had the guys out there again, and we could not drive them home.”
Kevin Kiermaier left five runners on base during his first two at-bats. He left the bases-loaded in the second inning when he grounded out to end the threat. He then flied out to center field with runners on first and second to end the fourth.
Evan Longoria grounded into a double play to end the third inning. Yunel Escobar grounded into a double play for the first two outs of the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Desmond Jennings made the first out when he was caught trying to advance to third base on a grounder to short by Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist ended up on third base with two outs after Longoria lifted a ball into short right field that Reddick couldn’t hold onto after a long run.
That single by Longoria would be the Rays final hit of the night.
Hammel, who earned his first win since his July 5 trade to the A’s, and his bullpen retired the final 12 batters they faced.
“I didn’t feel like we had a lot of chances,” Zobrist said. “I didn’t feel like we were threatening to get runs in. I thought Hammel pitched really well compared to what he has been doing, apparently. I didn’t really see anything good to hit. And the ones that we did hit hard we’re not in the right spot.”