OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rookie right-hander Sonny Gray got back on track and the red-hot Oakland A's kept rolling on Saturday night with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Gray blanked the Rays for 6 2/3 innings on five hits. He struck out seven, walked one and threw 102 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Gray was coming off the worst outing of his young career. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to Baltimore on Aug. 25, allowing six runs and eight hits. This time, he left the game to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 35,067 at O.co Coliseum.
A's center fielder Coco Crisp gave Gray all the offensive support he needed, going 3-for-4, driving in two runs, stealing a base and hitting his 15th home run of the season, a solo shot in the eighth inning that gave the A's a 2-0 lead. In the sixth, Crisp hit an RBI single after catcher Stephen Vogt tripled.
Rays right-hander Alex Cobb pitched a gem, too, but took the loss, snapping his five-game winning streak and three-game streak over the A's. Cobb pitched a complete game, allowing two runs and five hits in eight innings while striking out seven and walking one.
The A's won for the fifth time in their past six games and remained two games behind first-place Texas in the American League West. They extended their lead for the first wild-card spot to 1 1/2 games over Tampa Bay and five over the third-place New York Yankees. The Rays fell 4 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
A's closer Grant Balfour gave up a run in the ninth but picked up his 35th save. Balfour gave up a one-out double to Wil Myers and a walk to James Loney. After Jose Lobaton lined out to second baseman Eric Sogard, Myers moved to third on a wild pitch and Desmond Jennings lined an RBI single. Balfour retired pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson on a ground ball to end the game.
Gray and Cobb matched zeroes for five innings before the A's broke through for a run in the sixth. Vogt, a former Ray, led off with his first career triple, a high blast that hit off the right-field wall and bounced past Myers, who tried to make a leaping catch. With the Rays' infield drawn in, Crisp grounded a single to center, driving in Vogt.
Tampa Bay traded Vogt to the A's on April 6 for a player to be named or cash. At the time, Vogt had a career batting average of 0.00, going 0-for25 in 18 games in 2012. He came into Saturday's game batting .241 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 29 games for the A's.
The Rays had two singles and a walk in the seventh but came up empty. Matt Joyce lined a leadoff single, but Myers hit into a double-play. After Loney lined a single to left, left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle took over for Gray. Doolittle threw a wild pitch then walked Lobaton, but he retired Jennings on a fly ball to center field.
In the top of the eighth, Doolittle exited with two outs and pinch-runner Sam Fuld on first as right-hander Dan Otero came on to face cleanup hitter Evan Longoria. Fuld stole second base, but Otero struck out Longoria, who swung and missed a 2-2 fastball that was high and right down the middle.
The A's wasted a great chance to build a quick lead in the first inning when Crisp hit a leadoff single off Cobb and Josh Donaldson followed with a walk. But Cobb struck out Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss. Then he got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a ground ball to Longoria, who threw to second for the force.
NOTES: Rays DH/OF Luke Scott (lower back spasms) was cleared by the Rays' medical staff Saturday and will be activated from the disabled list Sunday when major-league rosters are expanded. Scott has been on the DL since Aug. 18 and began a rehab assignment Wednesday at Triple-A Durham. ... Crisp stole his 17th base of the season in the first inning, snapping a 25-game stretch without a theft, which matched the longest of his career. ... Rays OF Delmon Young will "see a lot of action" vs. lefties as a designated hitter and a pinch hitter after he's officially called up from Double-A Montgomery on Sunday, Rays manager Joe Maddon said Saturday. "There will be some righties that he fits in well against, too. Probably see him minimally on the field on defense. I'm looking forward to having him here. He's always had a knack for driving in runs. He knows how to do that. He even did as a kid. ... He's going to get a chance to make an impact."