RAYS (44-32) AT ATHLETICS (40-37)
4:07 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, FS-SUN, MLB.TV
A pair of seven-game winners go head-to-head Saturday afternoon when the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics meet for the third time in their four-game series.
The teams split the first two games. The A’s rallied for four runs in the last of the ninth to win 5-4 on Thursday before the Rays held on for a 5-3 win on Friday.
The A’s won two of three at Tampa Bay last week in a series in which both of Saturday’s pitchers — A’s right-hander Mike Fiers (7-3, 4.28 ERA) and Rays righty Yonny Chirinos (7-3, 3.00) — started games, but not against each other.
Fiers pitched Oakland to a 4-3 win in the second game of the series on June 11, limiting the Rays to two runs in six innings.
He since beat the Baltimore Orioles($14) 3-2 on Monday, running his record to 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his past eight starts, a stretch that began with his May 7 no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds($9). He is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his past four home outings.
Fiers has a 2-2 career record with a 4.93 ERA in six career starts against the Rays.
The 34-year-old veteran will be pitching for the first time as the clear-cut ace of the Oakland staff after the club’s biggest winner, Frankie Montas (9-2), was suspended 80 games on Friday for a positive drug test.
“I don’t think it takes away from the fact that we still expect to go out there and win,” A’s manager Bob Melvin insisted to reporters before his team’s Friday loss. “Somebody else will get an opportunity.”
Chirinos, 25, did not get a decision in the series finale, a game the A’s won 6-2 with a four-run eighth inning.
Chirinos held the A’s to two runs on seven hits in six innings in his first career start against Oakland. He is 0-0 with a 3.97 ERA against the A’s in two lifetime meetings, with the first having been in relief last season.
He has never pitched at Oakland.
The Rays used seven pitchers in the Friday win, but not closer Diego Castillo.
Emilio Pagan served as the closer in the ninth, entering the game with one out and the potential tying run at the plate. He retired both batters he faced to record his fourth save.
Pagan had also worked in the opening game of the series, going 1 2/3 scoreless innings before handing the ball off to Castillo to start the ninth with the Rays ahead 4-1.
The loss was Castillo’s fifth of the season. He has allowed runs in five of his past 10 outings.
“There’s not a ton that you can do when you’re in a non-game setting,” Rays manager Kevin Cash responded Friday when asked if Castillo needed to iron out some issues in the bullpen. “I think the best thing for Diego is to get back on the mound and put him in a situation where he can kind of let it go.”
–Field Level Media