OAKLAND, Calif. – Kurt Suzuki couldn’t have scripted his return to the Oakland Coliseum any better.
A longtime fan favorite for the Athletics, he greeted his old supporters with a three-run homer in his first game back with the club since being traded away last August, and Jed Lowrie hit a go-ahead double in the eighth inning of a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
“It was pretty special,” Suzuki said. “It’s awesome. Just being around the guys, I’ve played with the majority of the guys in this locker room last year or years before. It just seems like I never left.”
Lowrie extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his Oakland-record 13th double in August, off Joel Peralta. James Loney had tied it with a double in the top half for Tampa Bay.
Jarrod Parker dueled with David Price to run his unbeaten streak to 17 straight starts, matching Catfish Hunter’s Oakland record set from June 2-Sept. 3, 1973. The A’s pulled within two games of the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West, and moved ahead of Tampa Bay in the wild-card race.
Price (8-6) had his five-game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time in nine starts since July 12 against Houston.
Parker came out for the eighth at 100 pitches, but gave way to winner Ryan Cook (6-3) after allowing the first two hitters to reach. Grant Balfour pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 36 chances, leaving the tying run aboard a day after blowing a save at Detroit by allowing four runs.
“I’ll take that,” Balfour said.
Parker received a couple of early pep talks from Suzuki, who later delivered with the timely home run, which he said “for it to be off a pitcher like Price, who’s arguably one of the best pitchers in the game right now, was pretty neat.”
Suzuki is living in a hotel, stilly carrying a Nationals bag, and eagerly awaiting his family’s arrival to the Bay Area on Monday.
He had more than 15,000 people to help lift his spirits Friday.
“You couldn’t write that, you couldn’t make that stuff up,” Parker said. “He’s huge to us.”
Oakland beat the Rays for the first time after being swept in Florida from April 19-21. Tampa Bay outscored the reigning AL West champions 17-4 in that series.
With the Bay Bridge closed all weekend, the Rays’ team bus left San Francisco at 2 p.m. Friday and didn’t arrive to the Coliseum until 3:45. Price opted to take a cab before his start Friday, and it cost him a whopping $202, then tweeted he would take a helicopter Saturday.
Manager Joe Maddon plans to take the BART train Saturday.
Friday got stranger for the Rays when reliever Fernando Rodney briefly got stuck in the dugout bathroom during the game.
“It was a kind of a fun moment,” Maddon said. “We kind of rallied then – we should have kept him in there. A lot of the commotion in the dugout in the eighth inning and part of the rally was someone beating on the door. Finally someone broke the door knob with a bat to get him out. I don’t even know who the hero was getting him out. I say he was in there a solid 15 minutes.”
For Suzuki, rejoining the A’s for a pennant race has worked out well so far. He was cheered at every chance despite his light pregame remarks that he expected “a bunch of boos.”
Yunel Escobar hit an RBI single and Matt Joyce a sacrifice fly as the Rays kicked off a stretch with 13 of 16 games on the road.
Second baseman Ben Zobrist had his Rays record 81-game errorless streak end on a wild throw in the fifth. His previous error came May 11 against San Diego.
The Rays ended a 14-inning stretch without a run when they scored in the second, but they are 0-for California in four tries this year after dropping three at Dodger Stadium.