Piazza homers, drives in five as A's hammer D-Rays

Athletics 12, Devil Rays 2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- All that time watching video, and the subtle tweaks to his swing, paid off for Mike Piazza and the Oakland Athletics.

Piazza hit his 424th homer, had four hits and drove in a season-high five runs, powering the A's to a 12-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Thursday night.

Piazza just missed the cycle for the second time this month. He had a single, triple and homer on August 16 against the Chicago White Sox.

"It's not going to make my career less complete if I don't get one," Piazza said. "I'm just glad to come into tonight and swing the bat pretty well. Maybe it was the day off yesterday and watching film and tweaking my swing just a bit at the plate. You just take a wave 'till it crashes and then you try to ride another one."

Piazza hit a two-run shot -- his fifth of the year -- off Brian Stokes to extended the A's lead to 10-1 in the sixth. The designated hitter, who missed 68 games this season with a right shoulder injury, put Oakland ahead 1-0 on a run-scoring double in the first, had a fourth-inning RBI single and a run-scoring double in the eighth.

Chad Gaudin allowed one run over seven innings and Jack Cust hit a two-run homer for the Athletics (65-64), who moved over the .500 mark for the first time since July 7. Oakland has won five in a row, matching a season high.

Tampa Bay, which has allowed 10 or more runs 21 times this year, got within 6-1 on Akinori Iwamura's RBI single in the third. The Devil Rays, with the major's worst record at 48-79, are 15-39 since June 25.

Gaudin (10-9) scattered five hits, walked two and set a career high with 10 strikeouts. He improved to 2-6 in nine starts since the All-Star break.

"My slider was a good pitch tonight and I haven't had that in a while," Gaudin said.

Cust hit a two-run homer off Jason Hammel (1-4) during a five-run second that gave Oakland a 6-0 lead. Shannon Stewart added a two-run double and Nick Swisher drove in a run with a double.

Cust has 22 homers since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento on May 4. He hit his first homer on May 6, but hadn't hit one before that since Sept. 22, 2003.

Hammel allowed six runs, five hits and five walks in three innings. He is winless in 16 career starts, which is the longest start of a career streak since Oakland's Mike Mohler went winless in all of his 20 career starts from 1993-97.

"Five walks is the story of the night," Hammel said.

Carlos Pena was hit by Oakland reliever Kiko Calero in the bottom of the eighth, and in the top of the ninth Juan Salas hit Oakland's J.J Furmaniak with the first pitch. Santiago Casilla threw high-and-behind the back of Brendan Harris in the bottom of the ninth and was immediately ejected by plate umpire John Hirschbeck.

"It just got away from him," Athletics manager Bob Geren said.

Harris was upset about the height of Casilla's pitch.

"I figured they might hit somebody, but I didn't think he'd throw at my head first pitch and be that obvious about it. Nice job on his part throwing at my head," Harris said.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said Salas is working on a front-door cutter, and that hitting a batter was unintentional.

"It just got away, got inside," Maddon said. "The part that made it look worse was the fact he threw all strikes after that."

Game notes
Casilla was replaced by Ruddy Lugo. ... Devil Rays hitting coach Steve Henderson held a meeting with position players right after the game in an indoor cage. Tampa Bay has scored just 31 runs over the last 13 games. ... Piazza has three homers and 15 RBIs in 15 career games against the Devil Rays. ... Tampa Bay CF Rocco Baldelli (strained left hamstring) sat out what would have been his third minor league rehab game with Class-A Vero Beach because of sore legs. The Devil Rays said the soreness was not hamstring related. ... Oakland SS Marco Scutaro was scratched from the starting lineup with what Geren called a "non-baseball condition."