ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Jake Bauers spoiled the Oakland Athletics’ chance to close some ground on the AL wild card-leading New York Yankees.
Bauers hit a three-run homer off Jeurys Familia in the eighth inning to help the Tampa Bay Rays slow the playoff-chasing Athletics with a 7-5 win Saturday night.
Oakland remains 1½ games behind the Yankees for the top AL wild card after New York lost to Toronto earlier in the day. The A’s, who have dropped two of three since winning six straight, fell 3½ games behind Houston in the AL West.
Bauers’ homer was just the second allowed by Familia (4-2) since he was acquired by Oakland on July 21 from the Mets.
It came a few minutes after Oakland manager Bob Melvin was ejected by home plate umpire Larry Vanover for arguing a third-strike call on Marcus Semien in the top of the eighth.
Bauers, who busted a 4-for-65 slump with three hits and four RBIs, celebrated his 11th homer with a big flip of the bat.
“It’s nothing to do with disrespect or showing people up or anything like that. It’s just purely letting a lot of pent up emotions out,” he said. “The homer felt great, the bat flip felt better.”
Andrew Kittredge (2-2) retired Mark Canha with the bases loaded in the eighth to preserve a 4-4 tie and win a game in which both teams used relievers as openers. Tampa Bay and Oakland have been at the forefront of that trend this season.
“Oakland’s playing for an awful lot right now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Every game, they put themselves in a situation where they’re playing for a wild card home field. They’ve been on a nice run. It makes all the sense in the world how aggressive they’re being.”
Sergio Romo got his 20th save despite giving up a homer to Matt Chapman in the ninth. It was Chapman’s 23rd homer.
Oakland’s big chance came in the eighth. Before Canha grounded out, Semien was called out on strikes with the bases loaded.
“I mean, everyone sees the box,” Semien said. “I looked at the box on the computer and it was not in the strike zone. That’s the facts. That’s what I saw on our computer.”
Melvin, who was ejected for the second time this season, saw it, too.
“The closer we get to the end, the more emotional we’re going to be,” he said. “He’s trying to grind through that at-bat and drive in the go-ahead run, and you feel like he gets a (strike) call that’s not a strike. ... It happens.”
Brandon Lowe hit a two-run homer in the second to put Tampa Bay ahead, and Jed Lowrie made it 2-1 in the third with a single off Yonny Chirinos.
Chirinos then retired 10 in a row before Matt Olson tied it in the sixth with his 27th home run.
Kevin Kiermaier hit an RBI triple and scored on Bauers’ sacrifice fly for a 4-2 lead in the sixth, but Canha’s pinch-hit double helped the A’s tie it at 4 in the seventh.
Tommy Pham’s 17-game hitting streak came to an end for the Rays, who have won 10 of 13.