ST. PETERSBURG -- In a showcase of 23-year-old phenom arms, it was an aged bat that decided Friday's contest between the A's and Rays.
Oakland right-hander Jarrod Parker and Tampa lefty Matt Moore dueled for six innings, each giving up as many hits as strikeouts tallied (seven), and each surrendering three runs. But it was Jonny Gomes, eight years the senior of the hurlers, who delivered the win, as the A's designated hitter connected for a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth off righty reliever Joel Peralta to guide Oakland to a 5-4 victory.
It wasn't Gomes' first meeting of the season with Peralta, nor his first memorable one. Rewind to May 5, when the veteran homered off Peralta in the 12th inning for the win. He remembers it well and, in fact, was thinking about it following Chris Carter's two-out base hit.
"Unfortunately, yes, because I don't have too many at-bats off right-handed bullpen guys," Gomes said. "That's my third at-bat off him this year, so it worked to my benefit, having a little scouting report on him.
"That's a good team over there, and he's their eighth-inning guy. But that's how close games are won, a bloop and a blast. I don't get that without the bloop. You're trying to be aggressive early."
It marked Gomes' 15th homer of the season and seventh in 23 games since the All-Star break. Moreover, the long ball continued Gomes' productive ways against his former Rays team. He's faced them eight times, each game bringing about at least one hit.
"He did what he's supposed to do," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I've always had a lot of respect for Jon Gomes, I've talked about that for years. He's a good baseball player. The guy cares and he beat us tonight. He beat us against a guy with an equally big heart in Joel Peralta."
Gomes' new manager, along with each of his teammates, hold just as much respect for the impactful platoon player.
"Jonny's been more than that to us," said Parker, who went six innings. "We don't even think of him that way, and it's huge. He shows up every day, puts in the work and a guy that's positive. Accountability is the biggest thing. That's what he demands out of us, and the support he provides this team is huge. He's been doing it all year, and it's fun to watch."
"He's meant a lot, performance-wise and in the clubhouse," manager Bob Melvin said. "We have a lot of young guys that kind of look to him, and I've said often that it's kind of rare a platoon-type player has the type of respect he does. He's a special guy for us."
Gomes' efforts helped cover up a mistake by youngster Josh Donaldson in the fourth, when the A's infielder broke for home with two outs and the bases loaded as Adam Rosales took a pitch. He was easily called out on a steal attempt that appeared to be the result of a missed sign. It wasn't, though.
Donaldson was trying for a straight steal of home.
"It was one of those things I was trying to get a balk, and he wasn't paying attention and thought I saw an opening there and obviously it kind of turned into a bad play," he said. "You won't see me doing that again."
"I don't know what to say about that one," Melvin said. "No one has the green light at third. It's a play where, if you make it, everyone loves you, and if not ...
"He just thought he could make it. It surprised us. You better know you're going to make it."
The blunder cost Oakland a chance to extend its lead, as the A's instead watched the Rays again tie the game in the bottom half of the frame. Parker, having already given up a second-inning homer to Ben Zobrist, was again beaten by the shortstop, who collected a one-out triple and scored on Jeff Keppinger's ensuing sacrifice fly.
Donaldson found himself involved in more dramatics in a then-pivotal fifth inning, as he raced to his right on a sharp B.J. Upton ground ball that barely stayed fair for a double to score Jose Molina from second. Melvin immediately emerged from the visitors' dugout to argue the call that ultimately remained unchanged.
Parker and Moore, meanwhile, both walked away with a no-decision, as A's righty Ryan Cook -- owner of 1 2/3 scoreless frames in the contest -- snatched up the win, one that kept Oakland in the heat of an intriguing Wild Card race. Grant Balfour gave up a run in the ninth, but captured the save for the A's, who have won seven of their past nine and are a season-high 11 games over .500 at 68-57.
"I know who's hot and who's not, and obviously they're one of those teams that rides the wave, and any time you can kind of keep them quiet and from running wild and doing the things they do well is a plus in my mind," Parker said. "I think we're pretty hot too, and when we're able to come in to this game and battle and go blow for blow, it's fun."