Major League Baseball

Will Rays, A’s ride hot bats in series finale?

RAYS (44-33) AT ATHLETICS (41-37)
4:07 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, FS-SUN, MLB.TV

Two hot hitters had their managers reconsidering their projected Sunday lineups on the eve of the series finale between the Tampa Bay Rays and host Oakland Athletics.

Oakland’s Matt Chapman and Tampa Bay’s Ji-Man Choi both homered Saturday, before Chapman’s RBI double in the seventh inning proved to be the difference-maker as they A’s won 4-2.

The A’s will go for three of four in the series, after taking two of three at Tampa Bay last week, when left-hander Brett Anderson (7-4, 3.68 ERA) opposes Rays right-handed opener Ryne Stanek (0-1, 2.53) and long-innings replacement lefty Ryan Yarbrough (5-3, 5.26) in the final head-to-head meeting of the clubs during the regular season.

A’s manager Bob Melvin admitted after Saturday’s game that he pondered giving Chapman a day off, only to be thankful afterward that he hadn’t.

The third baseman’s go-ahead double in the seventh broke a 2-2 tie that Choi had produced in the top of the inning with his homer.

“That just shows you the type of player he is,” Melvin gushed to media of Chapman, after noting that his third baseman had talked his way into the lineup as the manager pondered the rest day. “He does everything very well. He steps up in the bigger situations. The better players step up in those situations.”

In a series of two teams that went toe-to-toe for much of last season for the American League’s second wild-card playoff spot, Chapman has come up big against the Rays, going 5-for-11 with two doubles and two homers.

Melvin noted the A’s have Monday off, making it an easier choice to keep Chapman in the lineup Sunday.

After dealing with Stanek in the first inning, the slugger is scheduled to face Yarbrough, against whom he homered last season when the left-hander made a relief appearance against the A’s.

Yarbrough did not pitch when the A’s and Rays squared off last week. He is 0-0 with a 4.70 ERA in two career appearances, both in relief, against Oakland.

The A’s will counter with Anderson, who did not get a decision in a 6-2 win at Tampa Bay on June 12. He worked 6 1/3 innings in that game, allowing two runs and seven hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Anderson is 1-1 with a 3.70 ERA in five lifetime starts against the Rays but has never faced Choi, who often sits against left-handed pitching. Nonetheless, Rays manager Kevin Cash kept Choi in the game against A’s lefty reliever Ryan Buchter on Saturday, and the strategy paid dividends when the lefty power hitter drove a solo shot over the fence in left-center field to tie the game.

It was Choi’s first homer against a left-hander this season.

“Big hit by G-man against a tough lefty,” Cash boasted after the game, before turning his attention to his team’s two-run output in general. “We’ve got to find a way to put some pressure on the opposition.”

Choi was replaced at first base by Yandy Diaz in the previous matchup with Anderson. Diaz came through with a 3-for-5 day, including going 2-for-3 against Anderson.

So Cash’s decision Sunday comes down to a guy who traditionally hits left-handers well and has a productive history against Anderson vs. a guy who has gotten five hits in five starts against the A’s in the past two weeks with two homers and five RBIs.

It didn’t seem like a tough call until Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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