OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Jason Giambi wasn’t as concerned with hitting his first home run of the season as he was with getting his batting stroke back in order.
Oakland’s veteran slugger accomplished both against Tampa Bay, hitting a solo homer and scoring twice in the Athletics’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
“I just was more worried about taking good at-bats,” said Giambi, after the A’s ended their five-game losing streak. “We went on that road trip … and I just got beat up a little bit. Then you start pressing and you start trying to swing harder to make up for it. Hopefully I can keep working and relax up there now.”
It was the 396th career home run for Giambi, who signed a $5.25 million, one-year contract to return to Oakland after spending the past seven seasons with the New York Yankees.
It was also just the seventh homer hit this season by Oakland, the fewest in the majors.
“I’ve said it all spring, it’s nothing new to us that this thing is going to happen,” winning pitcher Dallas Braden said. “(Giambi) feels energized by it and I think we all kind of got an uplifting spirit just watching him do what he does as he’s creeping ever closer to that milestone.”
Braden (2-2) allowed one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings for Oakland, which had dropped nine of 12 before beating Tampa Bay for its first win in a day game this season.
The A’s lefty, who is the only Oakland starting pitcher to win a game this season, left after walking Pat Burrell to load the bases in the sixth. Braden told manager Bob Geren he tweaked his groin an inning earlier but downplayed the injury afterward.
“It was just more of a precautionary thing,” Braden said. “No reason to try and battle. Heroes are made in September and October, not April.”
Brad Ziegler pitched 1 1-3 shutout innings for his fourth save in five opportunities.
Matt Garza (1-2) gave up four runs in the loss. He struck out six in 5 2-3 innings but walked four, three of which scored.
“That one inning I tried to make the perfect pitch too many times and it cost me,” Garza said. “I was kind of being stubborn, saying to myself that my two-seam was better than my four. I gave up one hit that inning and it cost me three runs and it cost us the game.”
The homers by Giambi and Buck were shots in the arm for an Oakland team that went into the game last in the majors in numerous offensive categories, including scoring, home runs, hits, RBIs and batting average.
Garciaparra, another offseason acquisition, made his first start defensively since injuring his right calf against Boston on April 14. He hit a three-run double in the fourth after Garza walked the bases loaded, then later singled to raise his batting average from .188 to .222.
The Rays scored their runs on Akinori Iwamura’s RBI single in the fifth and Burrell’s run-scoring single in the eighth. ^Notes: A’s RHP Justin Duchscherer, the projected opening day starter, remains on schedule while recovering from elbow surgery. … Tampa Bay RHP Jason Isringhausen threw a scoreless inning in his third rehab outing Friday, an encouraging sign for the one-time closer. “(Isringhausen) felt good; his arm strength is building up and he’s starting to feel better about repeating his delivery,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s getting stronger and making progress.” Maddon said Isringhausen will make at least two more minor league appearances before the team decides what to do. … Pena and 2B Akinori Iwamura will get a scheduled day off Sunday.