OAKLAND, Calif. – Matt Garza came out on top in a matchup between pitchers who threw no-hitters this season, outpitching Dallas Braden for his career-high 13th win and leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Evan Longoria hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the sixth as the Rays secured a split of the four-game series. Carl Crawford singled twice and scored for the Rays, who remained one game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Garza (13-7) scattered four hits over 7 2-3 innings and overcame a balk that led to the only run he allowed.
This marked the second time this season and the third time in 20 years that two pitchers have faced each other after throwing no-hitters earlier in the year. Arizona's Edwin Jackson and Roy Halladay of Philadelphia pitched against each other July 28.
Braden (8-9) allowed only four hits but gave up all three Tampa Bay runs and took the loss. It's only the second loss in six starts for the A's lefty, who pitched a perfect game against the Rays on May 9.
Garza went into a mini-tailspin after no-hitting Detroit on July 26 and lost two of his next three starts. He's rebounded nicely since, pitching seven scoreless innings to beat Texas on Tuesday then handcuffing Oakland on Sunday.
The right-hander cruised through the first four innings, allowing only a pair of singles, before briefly losing control and composure in the fifth.
After the A's loaded the bases with one out on a single, walk and error, home plate umpire James Hoye called a balk on Garza, forcing in Landon Powell with the tying run. A visibly frustrated Garza walked to home plate with his arms wide apart and talked briefly with Hoye before going back to the mound where he was met by Jason Bartlett, who tried to calm his pitcher down.
Garza retired the next two batters to get out of the jam then settled into another groove before leaving with a runner on and two outs in the eighth.
Joaquin Benoit recorded one out while Rafael Soriano struck out Cliff Pennington with the tying run on second in the ninth for his 37th save in 39 tries. The 37 saves ties Soriano with San Diego's Heath Bell for most in the majors.
Braden didn't get much support from his teammates. The A's, who were held to one-hit by Toronto's Shaun Marcum on Monday before going on a four-game winning streak, didn't get a runner to second base after the fifth inning.
Kelly Shopach's RBI double in the third gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. After Garza's balk tied the score, Tampa Bay scored twice off Braden in the sixth. Bartlett walked and Crawford singled before Longoria's two-run double.
Tampa Bay scored its first run in the second after Sean Rodriguez hit a leadoff single and scored on Kelly Shoppach's double to right-center.
Powell and Gabe Gross had two hits apiece for the A's.
NOTES: All-Star closer Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth inning after being reinstated from the disabled list. Bailey had been sidelined with a right intercostal strain. RHP Ross Wolf was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room. ... The only other time two pitchers faced one another after throwing no-hitters was on Sept. 6, 1991, when Texas' Nolan Ryan and Wilson Alvarez from the Chicago White Sox squared off. ... Crawford has hit safely in 12 of 13 games since moving into the No. 3 spot in Tampa Bay's lineup.