St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) – Jeff Niemann came within one out of his first complete game of the season to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to an 8-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the opener of a three-game series.
Niemann (6-4) gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out eight while walking one to win his fifth straight decision. He’s unbeaten in his last eight starts and hasn’t lost since May 4 against Toronto. Kyle Farnsworth recorded the final out. Ben Zobrist ripped a two-run single and added a double, while B,J. Upton finished 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI for the Rays, who have won three in a row.
Coco Crisp smacked a two-run home run while Hideki Matsui added a solo homer for the A’s, who have lost four consecutive games. Guillermo Moscoso (4-6) threw 93 pitches in 4 2/3 innings to take the loss. He gave up four runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three.
In the home half of the fourth, the Rays loaded the bases with one out on walks to Zobrist and Matt Joyce and a single by Upton. Robinson Chirinos followed and slammed a ball off the leg of Moscoso, who gathered himself and took the sure out at first base, allowing Zobrist to cross the plate with the game’s first run. Following the RBI, the Rays were left with runners on second and third with two down, but could not capitalize any further as Moscoso got Sean Rodriguez to ground out to end the inning.
The Rays tacked on three runs in the fifth. Johnny Damon slapped a single to center with one out and Evan Longoria followed with an RBI double into the right-center field gap to push the lead to 2-0. Following a Zobrist pop-out, Casey Kotchman lined a double down into the right field corner to chase Longoria home.
Later in the inning, Moscoso was pulled in favor of Fautino De Los Santos, who uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Kotchman to advance to third. After Upton walked, Joyce roped an RBI single into left. Oakland got on the board in the sixth, courtesy of Crisp’s two-run homer.
Tampa Bay extended its lead to 7-2 in the sixth on a two-run single by Zobrist and an RBI base hit from Upton. Oakland picked up a pair of runs in the ninth. Matsui led off the inning by blasting his 10th homer of the season deep into the seats in right. Following a Josh Willingham groundout, David DeJesus doubled and Cliff Pennington tripled. Farnsworth entered and got Kurt Suzuki to foul out to end the game.
Oakland is 0-4 on its current nine-game, 11 day road trip…The A’s lead the season series with Tampa Bay, 3-2…Musical act The Go-Gos performed a post- game concert in honor of 80’s night at Tropicana Field…Pennington, who returned to the lineup after missing two games due to Bell’s Palsy, went 1-for-4…It was Crisp’s fifth home run of the season.