A's drop series finale in see-saw ninth
Braden throws seven solid innings in no-decision
ST. PETERSBURG -- Two outs away from securing their first road series victory since winning two of three in Anaheim to open the season, the A's saw the Rays rally Thursday for three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win in the finale of a four-game set at Tropicana Field.
Frustrating? It clearly was for A's manager Bob Geren, who usually avoids criticizing his players the way kittens avoid hot tubs.
Minutes after Carl Crawford's walk-off single to center off right-hander Brad Ziegler helped Tampa Bay salvage a series split, Geren jumped outfielder Rajai Davis for a brain cramp that ultimately didn't really hurt the A's.
After stealing second base as a pinch runner for Jack Cust -- who had drawn a one-out walk in the ninth -- Davis and Matt Holliday, who also walked, took off on a full-count pitch to Jason Giambi, who smoked a pitch from Rays closer Troy Percival to center field.
Davis retreated back to second base, nearly getting passed by Holliday in the process, and when the ball fell behind center fielder B.J. Upton, Davis had to stop at third base, leaving Giambi with a long single.
"I thought he was camped [under it]," Davis said of Upton, who lost track of the ball against the opaque background of the dome's roof. "It looked like he was waiting for it to me."
Davis ended up scoring on Adam Kennedy's tie-breaking single to center, and Holliday scored on a walk to Ryan Sweeney, but Geren was fuming nonetheless about Davis' inability to score on Giambi's drive.
"It was still a baserunning mistake," Geren said. "He went back too far. With nobody out, your job is to tag up. With one out, your job is to score, so you go halfway on a ball like that.
"You can't make mistakes at this level, especially when [baserunning] is your job."
"Absolutely, it was a mistake," he said. "You go halfway on that ball every time. I messed it up."
But it wasn't Davis who gave up three runs while getting only one out in the bottom of the frame. Rookie righty Andrew Bailey, who had worked a scoreless eighth, walked Willy Aybar to open the bottom of the ninth and served up a game-tying homer to Ben Zobrist with one out. Ziegler took over and gave up a double to Dioner Navarro and walked Upton before Crawford came through with the game-winner.
"I tried to throw a backdoor cutter and it wasn't away enough," Bailey, who saw his ERA jump from 1.42 to 2.02, said of the pitch to Zobrist. "That's baseball, though. I didn't get the job done today."
A's starter Dallas Braden certainly did his job, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four over seven innings for his third quality start in four May assignments.
"He was outstanding," Geren said. "If you go deep in a game against a team like Tampa, you've done your job."
Alas, he remained winless for the month. He entered the game with the second-lowest run support in the American League, at 2.42 runs per nine innings, and when he left the game he was trailing, 3-2.
"I just understand that I need to go out and keep executing my game plan," Braden said, "The one positive I can take it is that our team still had a chance to win, and that's about as good as it really gets."
An RBI double by Gabe Kapler and an infield single by Upton gave the Rays a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but the A's tied it up with two runs of their own in the fourth against Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, who gave up an RBI single to Kennedy and a sacrifice fly to Sweeney.
Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett, whose 11th-inning error opened the door for an A's victory Tuesday, broke the 2-2 tie with a solo homer to left off Braden in the sixth. The ball landed about 10 rows deep in the left-field bleachers.
"He probably should have hit it a lot farther," Braden said. "Just an atrocious 0-2 pitch ... and he leaned on it."
Orlando Cabrera's two-out RBI single to center off Dan Wheeler in the top of the eighth took Braden off the hook for what would have been his fourth loss in four starts.
Asked if that was a positive, Braden went the team-first route.
"No, not really," he said. "We lost. There's nothing positive about that."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.