Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer adjusts his cap in the first inning against New York Yankees in the Yankees home opener on April 3 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
It appears Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin will have to wait until at least Thursday to get his wish to witness first-hand the strategy of rival Kevin Cash when the Tampa Bay Rays visit for a four-game series that begins Monday afternoon.
Rays ace Chris Archer (3-3, 4.68) is scheduled to get the ball in the series opener against A's right-hander Trevor Cahill (1-2, 2.75), who was scratched from his Sunday start to get an extra day of rest.
Archer is pitching one day after Cash gave career-long reliever Sergio Romo his fourth consecutive start -- his second in three days - a strategy that's seen him use part-time starters Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese and Anthony Banda in relief.
The Rays have won just two of Romo's four starts, including 8-3 Sunday over Baltimore in a game in which the Orioles roughed up the right-hander for all three of their runs in the first inning.
But Cash switched to a left-hander by the end of the first inning and benefited when the Orioles were shut out by Vidal Nuno for three innings while the Rays rallied into a 7-3 lead.
Then, just when the Orioles were getting comfortable with the left-hander, Cash went back to a righty for the final 5 2/3 innings, watching Austin Pruitt limit Baltimore to just three more hits and no runs the rest of the way while getting the save.
Afterward, Cash felt like anything but a genius, crediting his offense for bailing him out.
"It was needed, especially the way the game started out," he said of a six-run third inning. "I don't think anybody was in too good of a mood after the first inning. We didn't match up the way we wanted to. We walked a couple guys that we didn't want to and got down behind 3-0.
"But credit to our guys to find a way to ultimately tie it and take the lead after that.''
Romo, who spent most of his career across the San Francisco Bay with the Giants, is a possibility for Thursday, when Cash has yet to decide what he's going to do.
He has listed Archer, Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi as his starters in the first three games of the series.
Melvin broached the subject of starting relief pitchers when he gave minor-league call-up Josh Lucas an emergency start Thursday against Seattle.
It didn't go well.
In his first start at any level since 2013, Lucas allowed three hits and three walks in two innings, giving up two runs.
But as with the Rays on Sunday, the result wound up being a good one, as the A's tagged Felix Hernandez for four runs in the first inning and made them stand up for 4-3 win thanks to the seven-inning, one-run relief of four pitchers.
Asked at the time if he thought Cash's concept might catch on, Melvin said he'd have to see it with his own eyes to believe it was actually a potentially successful strategy.
One reason it has worked some for the Rays is that Archer can be an innings-eater on the day after Romo's start has taxed the staff. The two-time All-Star has pitched into the seventh inning in three of his last four starts.
Archer is 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA in two career starts against the A's. He has never pitched in Oakland.
Cahill, meanwhile, is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five career meetings with the Rays, including four starts.
He will be pitching on five days' rest for the fifth time this season. He has not pitched on less rest this year.