<
>

A's edge D-Rays on ball through Huff's legs

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Moneyball at its best? Billy Beane never
ordered anything quite like this.

Jay Payton took part in three crazy plays and scored the winning
run when the ball went between third baseman Aubrey Huff's legs
with two outs in the ninth, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2
victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday.

Moments earlier, Payton stayed on second following a wild
6-4-5-6-4 double play in which Dan Johnson was forced out at second
right before Payton returned to the base after taking off on Marco
Scutaro's ground ball. Scutaro was headed for second, too, and
became the second out when he arrived to the bag at the same time.

"Um, crazy," Payton said. "Bottom line, it was a crazy
game."

This wacky finish was a far cry from the kind of baseball for
which Beane, the A's innovative general manager, has earned a
reputation while in charge of Oakland: getting on base, then
producing big hits and using strong pitching to win games -- all
described in "Moneyball," a book detailing Beane's philosophy for
the small-market A's.

"I don't think this is in any textbook," A's manager Ken Macha
said.

Chad Orvella (1-3) gave up Payton's single to start the ninth,
then walked Johnson. Orvella was at 1-2 with Scutaro when manager
Joe Maddon called for Tyler Walker. After Scutaro's play, Jason
Kendall hit a routine grounder to third that Huff missed, allowing
Payton to score.

Pinch-hitter Greg Norton hit a tying solo home run with one out
in the eighth against Justin Duchscherer, spoiling Barry Zito's bid
to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season.

"It was very Abbie-normal," Maddon said in a reference to Mel
Brooks' 1974 classic comedy "Young Frankenstein."

Mark Kotsay hit a go-ahead single in the fifth inning but
Duchscherer couldn't hold the lead. He started the ninth but was
injured on a 1-1 pitch to Carl Crawford and left with a sore right
elbow. Joe Kennedy (2-0) relieved and he too had to be checked by
trainer Larry Davis at one point after taking a ball off his foot.

Kennedy stayed in the game and intentionally walked Ty Wigginton
to load the bases for Travis Lee with one out. Lee struck out and
Toby Hall followed with a soft liner.

Payton hit a sacrifice fly and had one of the strangest stolen
bases imaginable as Oakland bounced back from a frustrating 3-1
loss Friday in which it stranded 13 baserunners, just the seventh
home defeat ever for the A's against the Devil Rays.

Russell Branyan hit a solo home run in the fifth for Tampa Bay a
day after the Devil Rays ended an 11-game losing streak in Oakland
-- their first win here since beating Zito 9-3 on July 8, 2003.

Norton's second homer of the year kept Seth McClung from taking
the loss, though the right-hander's winless stretch reached four
straight starts. The Devil Rays, playing in their first West Coast
road trip of the year, lost for the fifth time in six games.

Huff and Julio Lugo combined to go 0-for-8 in the second game
back for both players following long stints on the disabled list.

Zito didn't make it easy for any of the hitters, getting a large
number of first strikes and working efficiently all game but missed
a chance for his first home victory of 2006.

"This game is capable of showing us something new every day,"
Zito said. "I saw two things I'd never seen."

Payton stole his first base -- if you can truly call it that -- in
a silly, second-inning play for the A's. Everybody lost track of
the pitch count and Payton jogged to second when Johnson headed
toward first thinking he had drawn a walk. But it was only ball
three. The ball was thrown back to McClung, who glanced to the
dugout and saw Maddon hold up three fingers but by that time it was
too late to make a throw and no fielders were covering second base
anyway.

"It was probably the most benign stolen base in history,"
Maddon said.

McClung said he knew it was ball three, but it didn't hit him
immediately that Payton might be going to second.

"I was sitting there kind of looking at the umpire and thinking
it's three," McClung said. "And then it hit me, 'Payton is
probably walking down to second.' I looked and he was."

Johnson did walk moments later and Scutaro also drew a free
pass, but Kendall grounded into a fielder's choice to end the
threat.

Game notes
It was Payton's first stolen base in the AL. He hadn't had
one since 2004 with San Diego. ... Tampa Bay fell to 0-7 against
left-handed starters this season. ... Nick Swisher's first-inning
double extended his streak for safely reaching base to 25 games.
... Devil Rays DH Jonny Gomes, a San Francisco native who grew up
about an hour north of Oakland in Petaluma, will have more than 200
fans from his hometown in the stands Sunday -- in a section to be
called "Gomes Zone." This weekend is his first time playing back
in the Bay Area as a major leaguer. ... McClung made his first
career start against the A's.