OAKLAND, Calif. — Just when the Tampa Bay Rays are in need of a nice groove and some momentum for the final month, they are slumping and missing key scoring opportunities.
"It's just one of those things with the offense struggling, it seems like every run we score we have to scrap for," right fielder Wil Myers said.
Myers was thrown out at the plate trying to score the tying run, former Rays farmhand Stephen Vogt homered and the Oakland Athletics completed a sweep of Tampa Bay with a 5-1 victory Sunday.
Tampa Bay used seven pitchers, floundered at the plate and a typically sure-handed defense even had problems catching the ball.
The Rays have lost four in a row as they head to Anaheim for a four-game series to continue a 10-game trip against the AL West.
"We'll get through this. We'll be fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "In a lot of these moments the right guys have been up in RBI situations. It just didn't work out. We're struggling with runners in scoring position and I keep believing it will happen. You just have to fight your way through it, that's all. It's all about the guys you planned to get you here and you stay with them."
Tampa Bay has scored just five runs during the skid.
Meanwhile, the A's are on a little roll again.
Oakland pulled off a pair of one-run wins before Sunday's result against the Rays, who are right behind Oakland in the AL wild-card race.
"The games were a little more electric, definitely, playing against a good team, a scrappy team like Tampa and being in the situation we're in alongside of them," said Coco Crisp, who hit a first-inning home run off Jamey Wright. "They do bring the energy and playing against a team like that the atmosphere it has been a little bit more intense."
After Crisp led off the bottom of the first with a home run, James Loney tied it with his own longball in the top of the second. A.J. Griffin (12-9) settled in after that, striking out seven on the way to his second straight victory following a four-start winless stretch in which he was 0-2.
AL West-leading Texas brings a one-game division lead over Oakland to town for a three-game series with the A's starting Monday.
Griffin allowed one run on five hits and walked one. He yielded his majors-leading 33rd home run, most since current pitching coach Curt Young gave up 38 in 1987.
The defense behind him made some crucial stops.
Myers was thrown out at the plate to end the seventh trying for the tying run on a single by Desmond Jennings.
Griffin was there to congratulate catcher Vogt, who took Donaldson's relay and tagged Myers on his second swipe after the baserunner tried to avoid Vogt and went over the bag. Donaldson said replay showed Vogt tagged him the first time.
"I knew the situation, the line drive was hit to my right and I froze on it. I should have gotten a better read on it," Myers said. "I didn't know where the ball was so I was just trying to avoid the tag. When you're not scoring runs, things like that get magnified."
Vogt then connected for his third home run in the bottom of the seventh, against the club that traded him to the A's on April 5.
Oakland earned its first sweep in a series of three or more games since June 11-13 against the Yankees. The A's have won six of seven and seven of nine following an 8-13 stretch from July 30-Aug. 23.
Tampa Bay missed another chance in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson led off with double, but fresh September additions Luke Scott and Delmon Young failed to deliver against Sean Doolittle.
The Rays swept the A's in April, then Oakland returned the favor to leave the season series even – meaning a possible tiebreaker for the wild card would next go to intra-division records.
"I don't want the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said of a potential one-game playoff. The skipper is scoreboard watching when it comes to Texas.
Oakland capitalized on Tampa Bay's miscues.
Maddon chose to go with Wright as a spot starter over lefty Roberto Hernandez against the A's lefty-heavy lineup to have plenty of options out of the bullpen.
Wright went 1 2-3 innings in his first start since 2007 with Texas, leaving with the game tied at 1 in the second. He allowed five of his nine batters to reach base.
Alex Torres (4-1) – the first of six Rays relievers – pitched 3 1-3 innings of relief, giving up a go-ahead RBI single to Brandon Moss in the third.
NOTES: Wright became just the 19th Rays pitcher to start a game since 2008. It was his 247th career start. ... Loney ended a 28-game homerless streak with his first since July 26 at the Yankees. It marked just his second extra-base hit in 25 games. ... The A's raised $61,395 on their annual breast cancer awareness day, bringing their total raised since 1999 to more than $1.3 million.