Moss Homer, No-Hit Rally Lift Athletics over Rays 3-2

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 21: Pitcher Sean Doolittle (C) of the Oakland Athletics celebrates his save with teammates Fernando Abad #56 of the Oakland Athletics and catcher Derek Norris #36 of the Oakland Athletics after striking out Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays to end the ninth inning of a game on May 21, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MAY 21: Pitcher Sean Doolittle (C) of the Oakland Athletics celebrates his save with teammates Fernando Abad #56 of the Oakland Athletics and catcher Derek Norris #36 of the Oakland Athletics after striking out Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays to end the ninth inning of a game on May 21, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

By Matthew Harrington

The Oakland Athletics managed only one hit against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday evening at Tropicana Field, but the lone base knock proved to be an efficient one. Brandon Moss’ solo home run in the fourth inning proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 decision over Tampa Bay (19-28). Oakland (30-16) also scored two unearned runs in the second, proving to be all the run support Tommy Milone (2-3, 3.99 ERA) would need. The lefty fired 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball, outdueling Erik Bedard for a fifth-straight victory for the Green and Gold (30-16), leaders of the AL West by four games. Sean Doolittle converted the save just hours after manager Bob Melvin declared the flame-throwing southpaw full-time fireman, replacing the previously employed closer-by-committee approach.

To open the second inning, the A’s loaded the bases on Bedard without registering a hit. Yoenis Cespedes reached on an errant throw from shortstop Yunel Escobar that pulled James Loney off the bag at first base. Derek Norris and Brandon Moss followed the error with back-to-back walks and nowhere to put Alberto Callaspo, but the second basemen struck out for the first out of the inning.

Defensive miscues doomed Bedard’s brilliant performance though after a second error in the inning brought Cespedes and Norris around for a 2-0 lead. Rays second-sacker Sean Rodriguez turned a surefire double-play from Josh Reddick into a two-run mistake, sailing the potential twin-killing feed to Escobar into left field instead. The misplay gave Cespedes and Norris ample time to cross home plate from third and second base respectively.

While the A’s bedeviled the Rays to two runs on four base runners without a hit earlier, it only took one batter in the fourth for Oakland to add to the lead. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Brandon Moss crushed a first-pitch hanging breaking ball from Bedard to right field for his 10th long ball of the season to make it 3-0 for the visitors. Moss collected his 40th RBI of the season, the fourth-highest total in the Majors this season. Moss is also second in the junior circuit in on-base plus slugging percentage (.988) and sixth in the AL in on-base percentage (.393) in a quest for his first All-star bid of his career.

Tampa scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth on run-scoring singles from Loney and Escobar, the latter of which greeted reliever Fernando Rodriguez into the game. Rodriguez relieved Milone, who departed the game responsible for one run already and on the hook for a pair of runners on base as well. Only one of the runners scored before Rodriguez could retire the side, closing the book on Milone after three strike-outs and a solitary walk issued. His opponent Bedard (2-2, 2.63) went 5 1/3 innings, striking out six Athletics while yielding the lone hit to Moss for the only earned run of the night

After closing out the sixth inning, Rodriguez pitched a scoreless seventh before handing the ball over to Luke Gregerson for the eighth. Gregerson retired Evan Longoria looking at strike three but surrendered consecutive singles to Loney and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to put the tying run at third with only one out.

Fernando Abad, the Athletics most reliable reliever this season, entered the game trying to cut off the Rays rally. He lost David DeJesus on a full-count base on balls to fill the bases with Rays but induced a lead-saving double play from Escobar to end the inning and the stamp out the Tampa scoring threat at two runs.

Sean Doolittle pitched a near-perfect ninth for his fourth save of the season, striking out two while allowing a lone hit to close out the game and put Oakland in line for the sweep in the Sunshine State. A’s ace Sonny Gray will take the bump for Thursday’s matinee from the Trop looking for win number six in a row for Melvin and associates. He’ll be opposed by the Ray’s Alex Cobb in the finale before the team heads north of the border for a weekend series in Toronto. The Blue Jays currently stand tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.

A’s Trade for Closer Jim Johnson

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By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland Athletics have addressed their need for a closer by acquiring Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.

The 6-6, 240 pound right-handed Johnson has saved a Major League leading 101 games over the past two seasons. In 2013, he was 3-8 with 50 saves in 59 appearances and a 2.94 ERA. It was nine blown saves in the second half of the 2013 season and the fact that Johnson is arbitration eligible that made him available on the trading block.

In 2012, Johnson posted a record of 2-1 with 51 saves in 54 opportunities and a 2.49 ERA for Baltimore. He was an All-Star selection and the AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.

Johnson pitched parts of six seasons in Baltimore compiling a record of 18-26 with a 3.11 ERA. He recorded 122 saves in 150 save situations.

The acquisition of Johnson likely means the A’s will abandon their attempts to bring back Grant Balfour.

Jemile Weeks, a former first round draft pick in 2008, batted .271 with 19 doubles, 10 triples, four home runs, 40 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 130 games for Triple-A Sacramento in 2013. During the season, Weeks was used as an infielder and outfielder. He was a September call-up in 2013. Weeks hit .111 in eight games for Oakland.

A’s Come to Terms with Fernando Rodriguez

The Athletics have signed RHP Fernando Rodriguez to a one year contract for the 2014 season. Rodriguez was arbitration eligible.

Rodriguez was acquired by the A’s from Houston in the Jed Lowrie trade. He recorded a 10.13 ERA in four spring training appearances before going on the disabled list March 23 with a sprained right elbow. Rodriguez underwent successful ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) or “Tommy John” surgery.

Rodriguez has posted a career record of 4-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 119 relief appearances for the Angels and Houston.