Final Score: A's 5, Rays 2
When Travis Buck is described as a multi-tool player, it's due to his potential to HR, single, and steal a base, all of which he did today. It's unfortunate that among his tools is not the ability to convince his manager that he should be in the lineup more often.
Buck's HR leading off the 3rd started the scoring and it stayed 1-0 until Matt Garza walked the bases loaded with one out in the 4th and Nomar Garciaparra, in an unusually patient at bat for him, ripped the first pitch up the alley for a 3-run double that gave the A's a 4-0 lead.
Meanwhile, for the 4th time in 4 starts, Dallas Braden pitched like he belongs at the front of a rotation, this time allowing just 1 run in 5.2 IP - nursing a groin problem that caused a visit to the mound in the 5th by Steve Sayles and likely shortened his afternoon. Enter Andrew Bailey, with the bases loaded and two out in the 6th inning of a 4-1 game, striking out Gabe Gross en route to another outstanding performance (4 up, 4 down with 2 Ks).
Jason Giambi launched his first HR as an Oakland Athletic v.2.0, Brad Ziegler squirmed out of a bases loaded jam in the 8th with just one run on the board, and the A's soon had a 5-2 win - their first win in 8 days.
Present today were elements that have been missing for the past week while the A's were losing 5 in a row: The chance to bat against a right-handed starter, the long ball, a pitcher getting into the 6th inning and turning a lead over to the bullpen, and Travis Buck. Now let's remember these things, shall we?
Note: Come back at 7:00pm for an analysis of the decisions the A's faced with the pitching staff at the end of Spring Training, and a look at the choices they made weighed against the options they had.