Athletics 9, Devil Rays 6
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Billy McMillon rarely gets a chance to play, so he just wants to be ready when called upon.
McMillon hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning, the first game-winning shot of his career, and the Oakland Athletics completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with a 9-6 victory Sunday.
“You just hope to have a good at-bat and put the ball in play,” McMillon said. “I’ve done this before in the minors, but I’ve also hit .350 there, too. We all want to play every day, but we’re not going to. It’s important for everybody to know their roles.”
Mark Mulder was in position to become the first 18-game winner in the major leagues until Oakland closer Octavio Dotel (4-1) gave up consecutive homers to Aubrey Huff and Jose Cruz Jr. with two outs in the ninth, tying it at 6. Cruz was hitless in 13 previous at-bats in the series.
It was Dotel’s fifth blown save in 21 chances with the A’s, and his 17-inning scoreless streak was snapped. Oakland’s bullpen allowed its first earned run in 27 innings.
“I just didn’t have it out there,” Dotel said. “It doesn’t matter how we win, though, just that we do.”
McMillon, who replaced an ailing Jermaine Dye in the fourth, hit a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence against Danys Baez (3-3). Eric Byrnes walked leading off the ninth and, after Bobby Kielty’s sacrifice, Baez walked Eric Chavez intentionally to bring up McMillon.
“You have a guy like that on the bench and he isn’t getting a lot of at-bats, but he keeps himself ready,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “He takes extra batting practice. Billy played one game in Tampa and hasn’t played since. It was a stroke of fate I guess.”
Chavez drove in three runs to help the A’s finish 7-0 on a homestand for the first time in 12 years. They have beaten Tampa Bay eight straight times in Oakland.
Mulder walked a season-high six in six innings but was helped by four double plays. He gave up four runs and seven hits.
“He’s a smart pitcher,” Cruz said. “He battled with what he had. He knows how to pitch.”
Scott Kazmir’s second major league start for Tampa Bay quickly turned into a mess. After throwing five shutout innings in his debut last Monday, the 20-year-old left-hander was knocked around in the first inning and knocked out in the fourth.
Kazmir pitched three-plus innings, allowing six runs and nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
“I made some good pitches but I couldn’t finish them off,” Kazmir said. “I got 0-2 on a bunch of guys, then I would hang a slider or throw a fastball down the middle and they would hit it.”
His 20-year-old teammate, B.J. Upton, joined him in the clubhouse soon after. Upton was called out on strikes in the fifth and ejected by plate umpire Jim Reynolds for arguing.
Upton, about five feet from the plate when he was tossed, slammed his bat to the ground and returned to jaw face-to-face with Reynolds before coaches could pull him away.
The Devil Rays fell to 6-27 in Oakland, their worst record in any ballpark.
Kazmir allowed the first three batters he faced to score. Kielty and Chavez each singled home a run, and Kazmir’s throwing error on Scott Hatteberg’s single allowed another run to score.
In the fourth, Bobby Crosby singled, Marco Scutaro doubled him home and Kazmir went 2-0 on Byrnes before he was replaced by Travis Harper, who completed Kazmir’s walk and then gave up Chavez’s two-run double.
Damian Rolls’ diving catch in center field ended the inning and saved at least one run.
“We battled them for three days here,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “It’s hard for us to beat good teams, especially on the road. If we were going to get Mulder, today was the day.”
Geoff Blum tied a Tampa Bay record with four walks and scored twice.
A’s OF Mark Kotsay missed the game with a sore left knee. … The Devil Rays have never won a series in Oakland (0-10-1). … Dye left in the fourth because of a sore left thumb. … The A’s hit at least one home run in each of their nine games against Tampa Bay this year.