ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jarrod Parker pitched his best game of the season. One pitch cost him a chance for the victory.
Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven strong innings and Matt Joyce hit a solo homer off Parker to help the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 1-0 on Saturday night.
Parker (0-3) allowed one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings — his longest outing of the season.
“That’s what we’re used to seeing out of him,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Just one 3-2 pitch to Joyce. Other than that, (they) really didn’t hit too many balls hard. Pitched well. This is the first game he’s pitched really well for us.”
A 13-game winner as a rookie a year ago, Parker struggled in his first three starts this month, failing to get through the fourth inning in two of them. With the exception of Joyce’s homer, he was sharper against the Rays.
“It’s coming along,” Parker said. “It’s a process. Tonight was something good to build off of.”
Hellickson (1-1) allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six to win for the first time in four starts this season.
“He pitched well, that’s what he did,” Melvin said of Hellickson. “He used his curveball and changeup effectively. Kept us off-balances.”
Joyce homered off Parker leading off the second inning.
“You lose 1-0, one pitch is the difference in the game,” Parker said. “I wish I could go back and get it. It happens.”
Joel Peralta pitched the eighth for Tampa Bay, which has won two straight over the AL West-leading A’s after dropping seven of nine of a road trip that ended Thursday night.
Fernando Rodney worked the ninth, finishing the three-hit shutout and earning his second save in three opportunities.
Oakland, which began the night leading the majors with 99 runs, was shut out for the second time this year. Coco Crisp went 0 for 4, ending a 12-game hitting streak — which tied his longest since 2008 — although he reached base with one out in the ninth when second baseman Ryan Roberts dropped his pop fly for an error.
The A’s didn’t have a hit after the fourth inning. Crisp was the their only baserunner after Derek Norris drew a walk leading off the fourth and was doubled off first when Josh Reddick lined to shortstop Yunel Escobar.
Hellickson limited the A’s to singles by Brandon Moss, Eric Sogard and Seth Smith. The 26-year-old right-hander didn’t allow a runner past first base and was helped by centerfielder Desmond Jennings’ unassisted double play to end the third inning, as well as Reddick’s fifth-inning liner that thwarted another potential Oakland rally.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before Parker got Ben Zobrist to ground out to end a Rays threat in the fifth.
Notes: Jennings recorded the first unassisted double play by an outfielder in Rays history when he caught Crisp’s pop fly and stepped on first base as he trotted to the dugout to double off Sogard, who had been running on the pitch and did not attempt to return to the bag. “He was trying to go first to third,” Melvin said. “He knew how many outs there were, he just thought the ball was down.” … Joyce drove in a run for the first time since his ninth-inning solo homer off Tommy Hunter beat Baltimore on April 3. … The Athletics recalled RHP Jesse Chavez from Triple-A Sacramento and optioned RHP Evan Scribner to the Pacific Coast League club. Scribner worked three innings Friday night after A’s starter Brett Anderson left after the first inning with a sprained right ankle. Melvin said Anderson felt better, but did no on-field work on Saturday. The left-hander’s status will be updated Sunday. … Athletics OF Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hand muscle) swung a fungo bat and might hit off a tee Sunday.