Matt Garza is so focused on getting Tampa Bay back into the postseason that even a questionable balk call couldn’t knock the Rays’ righty out of his groove.
Garza shrugged off his lone mistake of the afternoon that led to Oakland’s only run against him and pitched into the eighth inning for his career-high 13th win, leading Tampa Bay to a 3-2 victory over the Athletics on Sunday.
Garza (13-7) scattered four hits over 7-2/3 innings and came out on top in a matchup between pitchers who threw no-hitters this season. Oakland’s Dallas Braden, who threw a perfect game against the Rays on May 9, allowed only four hits — but three runs.
"You’re going to get upset, (but) I didn’t think I was in the wrong," said Garza, who had three strikeouts and three walks. "I had to keep going and couldn’t let that bother me. I really had to go after guys."
Evan Longoria hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the sixth as the Rays secured a split of the four-game series. Carl Crawford singled twice and scored for the Rays, who remained one game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Garza went into a mini-tailspin after no-hitting Detroit on July 26 and lost two of his next three starts. He’s rebounded nicely since, pitching seven scoreless innings to beat Texas on Tuesday then handcuffing Oakland on Sunday.
The right-hander cruised through the first four innings, allowing only a pair of singles, before briefly losing control and composure in the fifth.
After the A’s loaded the bases with one out on a single, walk and error, home plate umpire James Hoye called a balk on Garza, forcing in Landon Powell with the tying run. A visibly frustrated Garza walked to home plate with his arms wide apart and talked briefly with Hoye before going back to the mound where he was met by shortstop Jason Bartlett, who tried to calm his teammate down.
It worked. Garza retired the next two A’s to get out of the jam then settled into another groove before leaving with a runner on and two outs in the eighth.
"That was a big moment," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Garza is emotional and I thought he held it together pretty well because I ran out there quickly. I was impressed with his ability to be able get a strikeout against a good hitter."
This marked the second time this season and the third time in 20 years that two pitchers have faced each other after throwing no-hitters earlier in the year. Arizona’s Edwin Jackson and Roy Halladay of Philadelphia pitched against each other July 28.
Braden (8-9) lost for only the second time in six starts.
"They’re still the potent lineup they’ve been," Braden said. "I don’t see any need for them to stray from their approach. We didn’t win so (I) wasn’t good enough, period."
Joaquin Benoit recorded one out while Rafael Soriano struck out Cliff Pennington with the tying run on second in the ninth for his 37th save in 39 tries. The 37 saves tie Soriano with San Diego’s Heath Bell for most in the majors.
Braden didn’t get much support from his teammates. The A’s, who were held to one hit by Toronto’s Shaun Marcum on Monday before going on a four-game winning streak, didn’t get a runner to second base after the fifth inning.
Kelly Shopach’s RBI double in the third gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. After Garza’s balk tied the score, Tampa Bay scored twice off Braden in the sixth. Bartlett walked and Crawford singled before Longoria’s two-run double.
Tampa Bay scored its first run in the second after Sean Rodriguez hit a leadoff single and scored on Shoppach’s double to right-center.
Powell and Gabe Gross had two hits apiece for the A’s.
NOTES: All-Star closer Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth inning after being reinstated from the disabled list. Bailey had been sidelined with a right intercostal strain. RHP Ross Wolf was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento to make room. … The only other time two pitchers faced one another after throwing no-hitters was on Sept. 6, 1991, when Texas’ Nolan Ryan and Wilson Alvarez from the Chicago White Sox squared off. … Crawford has hit safely in 12 of 13 games since moving into the No. 3 spot in Tampa Bay’s lineup. … A’s pitchers have allowed five runs or fewer in each of their last 21 games, the longest streak in the AL since Baltimore in 1997.