OAKLAND — Oakland’s offense staked Rich Harden to a five-run lead in the first inning, and the right-hander did enough to make it stand up.
All it took was one inning — one very bad inning — by three Athletics relievers to let it all go to waste.
Desmond Jennings hit his first career home run and later added a two-run double in a seven-run seventh inning and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied from five runs down to stun the A’s 10-8 Thursday.
“It was just a big seventh-inning problem,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
That’s putting it mildly.
Every Tampa Bay starter had at least a hit or a run in the seventh after Harden’s afternoon was finished. Jennings, who hit a two-run homer off Harden in the sixth, had a two-run single in the inning before Evan Longoria capped the outburst with his 14th home run of the season.
In all, Tampa Bay had five hits and three walks in its highest-scoring inning of the season. All three batters who walked scored.
“They’ve been so good and so consistent out there,” Harden said of the A’s bullpen. (Jennings) hit that home run in the sixth and that sparked their offense a little bit.
The A’s jumped on Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis early when they batted around in the first inning and had four straight batters go single, double, triple, homer.
Cliff Pennington’s one-out single preceded the Oakland cycle. Hideki Matsui also singled, Josh Willingham hit an RBI double and David DeJesus followed with a two-run triple before Jackson’s home run made it 5-0.
It’s the first time in their Oakland history that the A’s have hit for the cycle with four consecutive batters. It also was the eighth consecutive game in which they’ve scored at least four runs, the team’s longest such streak since 2007.
Oakland’s offense went silent after that, while Tampa Bay stormed back with two runs in the sixth, seven in the seventh and one more in the eighth.
“We knew Wade could pitch and all we had to score some runs,” Jennings said. “We just had to put runs on the board.”
It’s the first time the Rays have overcome a five-run deficit to win since June 1, 2010, when they rallied to win at Toronto 7-6.
That spoiled an otherwise solid outing by Harden, who gave up three hits and two runs over six innings. The right-hander, who missed the first three months of the season with a strained right shoulder, retired the first nine batters and didn’t allow a hit until Ben Zobrist’s leadoff single in the fifth.
Harden retired the next two batters and finished with seven strikeouts and two walks. He left with a 5-2 lead but wound up with no-decision after the meltdown by the bullpen.
Craig Breslow was tagged for three runs in one-third of an inning, Brad Ziegler also allowed three — including a bases-loaded walk — while Brian Fuentes gave up Longoria’s home run.
Ziegler (3-2) failed to retire a batter.
“As a whole the bullpen’s been a really solid unit this year, so for it to unravel and to give away a lead like that is tough, no matter how many guys took part in it,” Ziegler said. “Our offense is hitting the ball like crazy right now and we have to do a better job keeping the other team down to make sure that the runs we score matter.”
B.J. Upton also homered for Tampa Bay to make a winner out of Davis (8-7), who struggled early before settling down to retire 17 straight batters for his first win since June 25. The Rays’ right-hander gave up five runs and six hits in the first inning but didn’t allow another runner after that.
Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Kyle Farnsworth finished off the A’s over the final three innings to help Tampa Bay win for the second time in its last seven games. Farnsworth earned his 20th save in 24 tries.
The A’s, who had a nine-run fourth inning Wednesday, couldn’t do anything after their big first inning and blew a five-run lead for the second time this season.
Kurt Suzuki homered in the seventh, DeJesus added on RBI on a fielder’s choice grounder in the eighth and the A’s added another run in the ninth before Farnsworth struck out Pennington with a runner at second to end it.