All along through the struggles of an awful start, manager Mark Kotsay kept pushing the positives while striving for sound, fundamental baseball.
His Oakland Athletics are beginning to find a rhythm at last against some of baseball’s top teams.
Shea Langeliers hit a three-run double in the fifth inning to break up a scoreless game, and the A’s won their season-high sixth straight with a 4-3 victory against the major league-leading Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
Ryan Noda added an RBI single in the fifth for the big league-worst A’s, finally riding some momentum after a weekend sweep in Milwaukee. James Kaprielian (2-6) pitched six solid innings, allowing three runs and five hits to win his second consecutive start.
“I think this team’s starting to come closer together,” Kaprielian said. “When you pull kind of a bunch of new guys together it’s really difficult because guys don’t know each other. On paper in my eyes we have a lot of talent in this room, but it takes time to win sometimes. We’ve got a little hot streak now and we’ve beat some first-place teams. I think when you’re hot it’s exciting to go duke up against the guys who are good and guys who are winning games. You want to beat the best at all times.”
A’s rookie Ken Waldichuk worked out of a jam in the seventh when he struck out Randy Arozarena to strand runners at the corners. Waldichuk earned a three-inning save, the first of his career.
Jose Siri hit a three-run shot in the sixth for Tampa Bay’s 113th homer of the year to match the idle Dodgers for most in the majors.
Oakland (18-50) loaded the bases with none out in the fifth against Zach Eflin (8-2) with two straight walks and Jace Peterson’s single. One out later, Langeliers delivered.
Eflin had won four straight decisions since a loss May 9 at Baltimore. The right-hander failed to last five innings for the first time in 13 starts.
Rays third baseman Isaac Paredes was ejected by plate umpire Manny Gonzalez in the sixth, apparently upset about a called strike.
“It just looked like he was frustrated by the pitch. Look, all of our guys work so hard,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We try to put pressure on them to make sure that they stay in the zone, but one of those close pitches, he didn’t like it and I guess he expressed that.”
Tampa Bay (48-21), which began its first West Coast trip of the year, had won eight of nine overall.
Oakland got swept at Tampa Bay from April 5-7, getting outscored 31-5 with a pair of 11-0 defeats that Kotsay called embarrassing.
“This team, Tampa, is the best team in baseball. We played them early and for a lack of a better word I think we were somewhat embarrassed,” Kotsay said before the game. “But we played really bad baseball, we failed at every aspect really at Tampa, pitching and defense, situational hitting.”
Kaprielian and Waldichuk shined this time. And it’s suddenly pretty fun around Oakland, with fans planning a reverse boycott to draw as many as possible Tuesday night.
The A’s hope to keep the winning going.
“That’s what it’s about,” Kaprielian said, smiling.
Rays: SS Wander Franco had the night off until pinch-hitting for Paredes in the sixth. “A big part of our success is that he’s been on the field a lot this year, and we’re going to do everything to keep it that way,” Cash said. … RHP Pete Fairbanks (left hip inflammation) threw a hitless inning for the FCL Rays with two strikeouts against the Red Sox in what was likely his lone rehab appearance.
Athletics: RHP Drew Rucinski sustained a low grade sprain of the MCL in his right knee while throwing a bullpen as he was working his way back from a stomach illness. He is likely to be shut down for two to three weeks before getting back on the mound. … LHP Kirby Snead (strained shoulder) will pitch Wednesday for Triple-A Las Vegas. … RHP Freddy Tarnok (strained shoulder) threw a bullpen and will make a rehab appearance Thursday with Las Vegas.
LHP Hogan Harris (1-0, 6.46 ERA) will make his second career start Tuesday night for the A’s after earning his first major league win last Wednesday at Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay had yet to announce its starter.