A's bats kept quiet in series finale
Back-to-back home runs in second supply early offense
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jack Hannahan stood in front of his locker on Wednesday morning -- fresh off a career-high four RBIs -- and expressed his approval of the Rays' home stadium.
"Put me in a dome every day," he said, undoubtedly referring to the 2-for-4, four-RBI performance he enjoyed on Tuesday.
Yes, Tropicana Field was the site of Oakland's offensive revival on Tuesday night, but the Rays used Wednesday's rubber match to cure an ailment all their own.
Tampa Bay mirrored Oakland's back-to-back homers and tacked on another insurance run to stop the A's adrenaline cold and take a series-clinching, 4-3, victory at Tropicana Field, maintaining its spot atop the American League East.
The same dome that held so much promise after Tuesday's eight-run output hurt the A's several times on Wednesday afternoon.
Carlos Pena was ruled to be hit by Greg Smith's pitch to start the fateful fifth inning, although whether Pena -- who had two strikes -- was actually struck, was debatable.
A's manager Bob Geren bent the ear of home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher, as the skipper argued the ball "looked and sounded" like it hit the bat.
"I was just curious how a ball hits a guy, goes 50 feet and nobody comes out to look at his hand," Geren said.
Smith was equally astounded, as the pitch ricocheted back to him on the mound.
"My initial reaction was fair ball," Smith said. "I mean, the ball one hops back to me. Actually, I had to take a step back to get to it. ... To me, it had to have hit the bat. But, you know, [the umpires] said it hit him and they checked and see if he swung or not. And at that point, there's nothing you can do about it."
Two outs later, the call was further magnified as Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes hit the "C" ring catwalk of Tropicana Field for a ground-rule two-run homer and Ben Zobrist followed suit with a solo shot of his own.
Smith -- who was perfect through the game's first three innings -- denied that the Pena call affected him one way or the other.
"I felt like if I had made a better pitch to Gomes -- or even a different pitch -- than everybody forgets about it," he said.
"Nobody's asking about it. So, if the call does go our way we are out of the inning, if not it didn't so we have to go play it as he called it. I'm not going to put too much emphasis on the umpires call."
The Rays did. The club capitalized on the call for a three-run fifth inning and tacked on another tally in the seven, a run that proved to be the difference maker.
Tampa Bay has now won 12 of its last 13 series at home.
"Home parks always got the advantage," Hannahan said. "But not losing a series ... that's what good teams do to get in first place and stay in first place. [They] play consistent baseball."
So perhaps Wednesday afternoon's loss wasn't about the dome or the calls letting the A's down.
It was about a team that has dropped seven of its last eight games, and hasn't won the last five road series.
"We won one, we were in a position to win a couple of other ones," Geren said. "It could have very easily been a .500 trip -- get a hit here or there -- or even better."
The A's are close. And Tuesday night's resounding 8-1 win proved that, even if it was the lone bright spot in a dismal six-game road trip.
"[Tuesday] was a good sign of things to come in the second half," Hannahan said. "If we stay consistent swinging the bat and get those big two-out hits, [we can] score some runs."
Wednesday's back-to-back homers by Emil Brown and Carlos Gonzalez proved the offense -- although erratic -- is there.
After all, the A's won't see a starter like the Rays' James Shields -- who was two outs from a complete game -- every night.
"He pitched good, you got to give him credit," Brown said. "Can't blame just the offense, I mean this guy's not going to let you just whack it around. ... He's got a couple pitches he can finish you with."
And he did. The pair of runs Shields gave up in the third inning stood as the Athletics' lone tally until the ninth inning, as Shields put the finishing touches on a dismal 1-5 road trip for Oakland.
"It was tough," Smith admitted. "Going to New York off the All-Star break and getting swept and having a chance to win the series today, and it kind of slips away from us. It's kind of a letdown."
"I don't know what can we take out of this," Brown said. "I guess the positive we can get out of this is that the pitching has been consistent throughout the trip. We haven't gotten those guys runs, but they've kept us in ball games."
"It's not a road trip you want to remember," Hannahan said. "But we got a day off [Thursday] and can kind of relax and get focused on this homestand."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.