Oakland, CA – Kevin Kouzmanoff scored the go-ahead run on an error in the eighth inning, helping the Oakland Athletics come back for a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the second of four games at Oakland Coliseum.
Kouzmanoff finished 2-for-4, while Jack Cust added his ninth home run of the season for the A's, who moved back over .500 with their fourth straight win. Cliff Pennington added two hits, while Daric Barton drove in two in the victory.
Vin Mazzaro lasted 6 1/3 frames, allowing three runs -- one earned -- on three hits and four walks while fanning five. Henry Rodriguez (1-0) received the win for a perfect eighth, and Craig Breslow notched his second save with a flawless ninth.
"I think we're showing the league we can play with anybody," Breslow said. "We can definitely pitch with anybody, our defense keeps us in games and we scored some crucial runs. Not at a win counts anymore in the standings that it did two months ago, but it's good to be playing pretty good baseball this time of the year."
Ben Zobrist homered for the Rays, but also committed the error that allowed Kouzmanoff to score, as Tampa Bay remained one game behind the Yankees in the AL East after New York was blanked by Seattle. Matt Joyce drove in two runs in defeat, the Rays' second straight after a five-game win streak.
"It's interesting how quickly you can be humbled," Zobrist said. "It's a good reminder and a learning experience."
Jeremy Hellickson, making his fourth big league start, was bidding to become the first pitcher to begin his career with four straight wins since Cleveland's Scott Lewis in 2008. Instead, he got the no-decision after yielding three runs, seven hits and a walk while fanning seven in 6 1/3 innings.
Hellickson did, however, extend his own record, becoming the first pitcher since 1900 to notch a quality start in each of his first four major league starts.
Joaquin Benoit (0-2) took the loss for allowing the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth.
Trailing by one entering the bottom of the eighth, the A's went ahead with some clutch hitting and some bad Tampa Bay fielding.
Cust worked a leadoff walk off Benoit and was replaced by pinch-runner Gabe Gross, who moved to third on Kouzmanoff's single. Rajai Davis tied the game with a sacrifice fly that moved Kouzmanoff to third with one out.
Benoit nearly got out of the jam after striking out Travis Buck, but he walked pinch-hitter Mark Ellis, which caused Tampa Bay to insert Lance Cormier to pitch. Cormier induced a seemingly harmless ground ball to the second baseman Zobrist, who bobbled the ball and made a late throw to first, allowing Kouzmanoff to score the go-ahead run.
Tampa Bay went down in order in the ninth to end the game.
The Rays used the help of two errors to score twice in the first. Zobrist reached with one out on a misplay by the second baseman Steve Tolleson and moved to second on a throwing error by Mazzaro. Carl Crawford followed with an infield single and stole second, preceding Carlos Pena's two-out walk to load the bases.
Joyce laced a single to center to plate two runners for the early lead.
In the second, B.J. Upton worked a leadoff walk, moved to third on a Jason Bartlett double and scored on John Jaso's sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
The A's, though, fought back. Pennington doubled with one down in the third, and Coco Crisp followed with an infield single. The two executed a double steal to move to second and third, and both scored on Barton's single to center.
After Cust tied the game with a leadoff homer in the sixth, Zobrist gave the Rays the lead once again with a two-out shot to left in the seventh.
Hellickson exited in the seventh after two Athletics reached base with one out, but Randy Choate and Benoit each retired a batter to get the Rays out of the jam with the lead.
The Rays fell to 3-16 on Friday and have lost 14 of their last 15 on Friday...The A's lead the season series, 4-3, having won the last four in a row between the teams...With the win, Oakland clinched at least a tie in this series, its seventh straight home set without a loss...The Rays have lost six of eight on the road, but still have a 35-24 record away from Tropicana Field...A's starters have gone six or more innings in 19 straight starts and have 13 straight quality starts -- tying a team record set in 1980.