OAKLAND, Calif. – Kevin Kouzmanoff scored the go-ahead run on second baseman Ben Zobrist's fielding error with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 Friday night for their second straight one-run victory in the series.
Rajai Davis hit a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth, then Cliff Pennington hit a grounder to second and wound up part of the decisive play for the third straight game. He hit a game-ending single to beat Toronto 5-4 on Wednesday and a go-ahead, two-run double in Thursday's 4-3 victory over the Rays.
Tampa Bay missed a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Yankees in the AL East after New York was shut out at home 6-0 by Seattle. The Rays lost a late lead for the second night in a row.
Henry Rodriguez (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for his first major league win. Joaquin Benoit (0-2) allowed two runs, one earned, and took the loss. He had given up only six runs all year.
Jack Cust hit a solo homer for Oakland to tie it at 3 in the sixth before Zobrist's go-ahead solo shot in the seventh. But the Rays' bullpen couldn't hold a one-run lead that would have given rookie Jeremy Hellickson a win in his fourth straight start to begin his career.
Hellickson was optioned to Class-A Port Charlotte after the game.
Craig Breslow, pitching for the first time since taking a line drive off his forearm Tuesday, worked the ninth for his third career save and second this year.
Matt Joyce hit a two-run single and John Jaso added a sacrifice fly for the Rays, who lost their second straight at the start of a seven-game West Coast trip following a five-game winning streak.
Daric Barton hit a two-run single in the third, when Oakland became the first team to produce more than two hits in an inning against Hellickson.
Hellickson was trying to become the first pitcher to win four straight starts to begin his career since Cleveland's Scott Lewis did it in September 2008. The 23-year-old right-hander got a few boosts from the defense, too.
Center fielder B.J. Upton stole a hit from Davis in the fourth with a sprint to the gap in right-center and then a stretched-out diving catch. And Upton made a great throw to first to nearly double up Kouzmanoff.
Pennington and Coco Crisp pulled off a double steal in the third, giving them each 20 stolen bases this year.
That put Pennington on third following his one-out double and he and Crisp scored moments later on Barton's hit.
Davis leads the A's with 36 steals and this marks the first time since 1992 three A's players have stolen 20 or more bases in a season. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson had 48 that season and was joined by Willie Wilson (28) and Lance Blankenship (21).
A's starter Vin Mazzaro saw his winless stretch extend to five starts dating to a victory July 24 against the Chicago White Sox. He allowed three hits and struck out five over 6 1-3 inning but saw his pitch count climb in a hurry with four walks.
NOTES: Rays starters Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, each on the disabled list with a strained shoulder, threw simulated games. Manager Joe Maddon was pleased with their progress and both could be activated in the coming days. "Both are on task to be brought back and start," Maddon said. "They were really loose and free. I don't anticipate any setbacks." ... Tampa Bay is 3-16 on Fridays this year and has lost 14 of its last 15. ... Rays reliever Chad Qualls was away from the team and in Southern California for a second straight day following a death in his family. He is expected to return for Saturday night's game. ... Injured Oakland closer and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey, working his way back from a right rib cage strain, allowed three hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Sacramento. He threw 18 pitches and faced five batters, struck out one and didn't issue a walk.