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Hellickson pitches seven strong, Rays beat Athletics

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Associated Press
4/20/2013 10:25:31 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- To help the Tampa Bay Rays relax, manager Joe Maddon invited a disc jockey into the clubhouse for a little pregame entertainment Saturday.

"I want our guys to chill out a little bit, go out there and play hard and not be afraid of making mistakes -- ever," Maddon said. "This is my way of getting the point across."

Mission accomplished.

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson scattered three hits over seven innings and Matt Joyce homered for the first time in nearly three weeks to help the Rays stop the A's 1-0 on Saturday night.

"We're going to take a win any way we can get it," Joyce said after Tampa Bay played superb defence behind Hellickson and two relievers to shut down the top scoring team in the majors.

"To know you can pitch play defence well enough to make one run stand," Joyce added, "it's a good confidence builder."

Hellickson (1-1) walked one and struck out six to win for the first time in four starts this season. Joyce homered off Jarrod Parker (0-3) on a 3-2 pitch leading off the second inning.

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 on 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.

"I think the biggest thing was throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters," Hellickson said. "The first three games I think I gave up a run in the first inning. That was a big focus."

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.

"You lose 1-0, one pitch is the difference in the game," Parker said. "I wish I could go back and get it."

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.

Parker allowed one run and six hits in six-plus innings -- his longest outing of the season. A 13-game winner as a rookie a year ago, the young right-hander 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.

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.

"He threw the ball good. 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. This is the first game he's pitched really well for us."

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. ... 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.

Jeremy Hellickson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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