OAKLAND — The storyline developing around Chris Smith seemed too good not to come to fruition.
For as sweet as a victory for the 36-year-old journeyman would have been, the ending in reality was that much more bitter for the A’s.
They lost 4-3 when the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for two runs off closer Santiago Casilla in the top of the ninth to erase a 3-2 Oakland lead. Casilla retired the first two hitters of the inning, but then allowed a single and a walk plus a wild pitch that helped usher the Rays’ rally along. Adeiny Hechavarria’s ground single through the hole on the right side brought home the tying run and former Athletic Shane Peterson singled home the go-ahead run before Casilla departed the game to a chorus of boos from the crowd of 15,231 at the Coliseum.
Smith was terrific over seven innings, giving up just three hits and leaving the game in line to register just the second major league victory over his career. That first one came all the way back in 2008 in his second career appearance.
Tuesday’s start was just the second in that long and winding career path. Last week in Seattle, he became the oldest pitcher in A’s history to make his first major league start.
Smith held the Rays to two runs, struck out four and walked two. The right-hander was expected only to be called up for that spot start against the Mariners, but with Oakland sending Jharel Cotton for a rehab start with Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, Smith remained on the 25-man roster and made good with an excellent outing.
The A’s didn’t muster much offense themselves with only four hits. But it seemed it would be enough if the bullpen could have nailed it down. FAMILIAR FOE HURTS A’S: Rays speedster Mallex Smith was a one-man wrecking crew against the A’s in a series in Florida in June. He didn’t start Tuesday, but played a major role when he pinch-ran for Wilson Ramos in the ninth, advanced to second on the wild pitch, stole third and scored the tying run.
FLASHING THE LEATHER: Matt Chapman committed a second-inning error that led to an unearned run off Smith, but the third baseman made two excellent plays after that. The second one, a diving backhand stop and throw for the first out in the top of the ninth, appeared at the time like it might be a game-clincher for the A’s.
PICKING UP STEAM: Khris Davis homered for the second night in a row, this one a two-run shot in the first that hit high off the green facing beyond the center field wall. Davis has 27 homers, tied with George Springer for second in the American League. He’s just 10-for-53 over his past 16 games, but six of those 10 hits are home runs.
THE EXIT’S THIS WAY: Rays manager Kevin Cash was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing with home plate umpire Bill Welke. That came after Rays second baseman Tim Beckham was tossed from Monday’s series opener for also arguing with the home plate ump.
REMEMBER THIS GUY?: Outfielder Jake Smolinski, who underwent shoulder surgery in March and has missed the whole season, is making his way back. He took batting practice on the field with teammates for the first time since his surgery, and manager Bob Melvin mentioned September as a possible target for Smolinski to get back into games. It’s unclear if that could be major league games, fall instructional league games or some other type of informal setting. Minor league affiliates will wrap up by early September.