ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — It took the Tampa Bay Rays 11 innings into the third game of the series to come through with a big hit against the Oakland Athletics.
Sean Rodriguez hit a three-run home run with two out in the 11th Thursday to lift the Rays to a 5-2 victory that ended their four-game losing streak — and Oakland’s five-game winning streak.
“I wouldn’t say it would have been the end of the world if we’d have lost that one, but the morale would have been a little lower,” said Alex Cobb, who pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings in his first start since April 12. “It was a huge win for us. For Roddy to go off in that fashion and deliver that to us is a big boost that is very welcome.”
Rodriguez’s team-leading fifth homer came off Luke Gregerson after Desmond Jennings’ two-out single had tied it against Dan Otero (4-1).
“It was obviously good to get a win after the fact that we were able to go that many innings with the pitchers throwing as well as they did,” Rodriguez said.
Yeonis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly had given the A’s a 2-1 lead in the top of the 11th. Cespedes also drove in the first Oakland run with an RBI double in the ninth off Rays closer Grant Balfour.
Josh Lueke (1-2) got the win after one inning of relief for the Rays, who had scored only four runs during their four-game losing streak.
“It was great for our guys to do that,” said manager Joe Maddon. “We needed some kind of a boost all night and we were foiled in our attempts.”
The Athletics lost for only the second time in 13 games.
“It’s always nice to win a series, but when you’ve won two and you’re ahead, not being able to close it out is a little disappointing,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “But you pick up and go on to tomorrow.”
Yunel Escobar drove in the Rays’ first run with a single in the seventh off Oakland starter Sonny Gray, who pitches eight innings and reduced his league-leading earned run average to 1.99.
Cobb gave up three hits and two walks while striking out six after spending 35 days on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. The right-hander tied a franchise record with his third straight scoreless start.
“It felt like for a while there might not be any runs scored,” Melvin said. “You’ve just got to wait out the starting pitcher and try to get to the bullpen.”
The Rays’ final out in the ninth came when Jennings was caught stealing. The original call of safe was overturned by a replay challenge that took two minutes and 13 seconds.
NOTES: Rays manager Joe Maddon had struggling slugger Evan Longoria hit second for the second straight game, saying he wanted the third baseman to have a “try-and-get-on-base” attitude. Longoria hit just .196 over his previous 29 games. ... OF Coco Crisp and SS Jed Lowrie returned to the A’s lineup simultaneously after missing games with sore necks. . . . Tampa Bay 2B Ben Zobrist said he still has some inflammation in his dislocated left thumb but hopes to return around May 30. ... Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (arthroscopic right elbow surgery) threw 34 pitches during his first batting practice session and expects to return before the All-Star break. ... Oakland LHP Scott Kazmir (5-1) will face Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (4-4) Friday night in Toronto. ... Tampa Bay RHP Chris Archer (3-2) and Boston RHP John Lackey (5-3) are Friday night’s scheduled starters.