ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Danny Valencia hit his first two home runs in more than seven months, and that was just the start of his contribution to the Oakland Athletics’ 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
The third baseman made a diving catch in the ninth inning to take a bases-loaded hit away from Evan Longoria.
“You make a play like that, it’s like knocking in two runs. It’s just as important,” manager Bob Melvin said after the A’s broke a five-game losing streak.
Valencia sat for two games this week after reinjuring the left hamstring that had landed him on the disabled list. He had two of Oakland’s four homers in this one.
“I’ve had a zero in that column and it’s the middle of May so it’s definitely nice to get in that column finally,” he said.
Rich Hill (5-3) pitched six innings to win for the fourth time in his last five starts. Valencia’s diving catch helped Ryan Madson work out of a jam to earn his ninth save.
“We were guarding the line because if the ball’s hit down the line they have a chance to score (three) and tie the game,” Valencia said. “Longoria is notorious for pulling the ball and it seemed like every at bat he was going to hit the ball to me. Luckily he hit it in the small vicinity where I cover, and I was able to make a good play.”
Khris Davis and Valencia homered off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (0-2) in the first inning, driving in all four runs. Davis’ three-run homer was his eighth of the season.
Marcus Semien put the A’s up 5-2 in the fourth with his ninth home run before Valencia added his second homer off reliever Dana Eveland in the sixth.
Hill retired 12 straight after giving up two runs on three walks and RBI singles by Steve Pearce and Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning. The left-hander gave up three runs on four hits while striking out seven.
“After that first … the biggest thing was to go deep in the game,” Hill said. “I didn’t get deep in the game but deep enough to where I thought I could give the team a chance to win the ballgame.”
“(Hill) was kind of off in the zone, wasn’t throwing many strikes,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Then he locked it in with the curveball and when he needed to pick up strikes, he was able to get them.”
Longoria drove in Tampa Bay’s final run with a double in the fifth. Desmond Jennings walked three times and scored twice for the Rays, who have lost four straight.
Odorizzi became the first Rays pitcher in nine years to go winless in his first eight starts. He gave up five runs on seven hits, including three homers, in four innings.
Yonder Alonso had three of Oakland’s 11 hits.
The starting pitchers combined to throw 75 pitches in the first inning, 42 by Odorizzi. … All of Semien’s team-high nine home runs have come from the ninth spot in the batting order. … Rays leadoff hitter Brandon Guyer was hit by Madson’s pitch in the ninth, his major league-leading 12th HBP of the season. … Hill has both of the A’s wins in their last 11 games.
Athletics: OF Mark Canha is seeking a second opinion after being told his options for treatment on his injured hip are an injection or season-ending surgery. … C Josh Phegley took a cortisone injection Thursday on his sore right knee. … RHP Liam Hendricks will have his elbow re-examined Monday after an X-Ray and MRI revealed no structural damage. … IF Jed Lowrie (right shin contusion) got out of his walking boot on Thursday.
Rays: 2B Logan Forsythe was out of the lineup for a third straight game with a bruised left shoulder. … RHP Brad Boxberger (adductor surgery) expects to begin a rehab assignment soon after throwing 22 pitches Thursday at extended spring training.
Oakland’s RHP Kendall Graveman (0-3, 10.54 ERA over his last three starts) will pitch Saturday night against RHP Matt Andriese, who gave up one run in a career-high seven innings Sunday in his only major league appearance of the season.