OAKLAND, Calif. -- Moneyball at its best? Billy Beane never ordered anything quite like this.
Jay Payton took part in three crazy plays and scored the winning run when the ball went between third baseman Aubrey Huff's legs with two outs in the ninth, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday.
Moments earlier, Payton stayed on second following a wild 6-4-5-6-4 double play in which Dan Johnson was forced out at second right before Payton returned to the base after taking off on Marco Scutaro's ground ball. Scutaro was headed for second, too, and became the second out when he arrived to the bag at the same time.
"Um, crazy," Payton said. "Bottom line, it was a crazy game."
This wacky finish was a far cry from the kind of baseball for which Beane, the A's innovative general manager, has earned a reputation for while in charge of Oakland: getting on base, then producing big hits and using strong pitching to win games -- all described in Moneyball, a book detailing Beane's philosophy for the small-market A's.
"I don't think this is in any textbook," A's manager Ken Macha said.
Chad Orvella (1-3) gave up Payton's single to start the ninth, then walked Johnson. Orvella was at 1-2 with Scutaro when manager Joe Maddon called for Tyler Walker. After Scutaro's play, Jason Kendall hit a routine grounder to third that Huff missed, allowing Payton to score.
"It was very Abbie-normal," Maddon said in a reference to Mel Brooks' 1974 classic comedy Young Frankenstein.
Mark Kotsay hit a go-ahead single in the fifth inning, but Duchscherer couldn't hold the lead. He started the ninth but was injured on a 1-1 pitch to Carl Crawford and left with a sore right elbow. Joe Kennedy (2-0) relieved and he too had to be checked by trainer Larry Davis at one point after taking a ball off his foot.
Payton hit a sacrifice fly and had one of the strangest stolen bases imaginable as Oakland bounced back from a frustrating 3-1 loss Friday in which it stranded 13 baserunners, just the seventh home defeat ever for the A's against the Devil Rays.
Russell Branyan hit a solo home run in the fifth for Tampa Bay, a day after the Devil Rays ended an 11-game losing streak in Oakland -- their first win since beating Zito 9-3 on July 8, 2003.
Norton's second homer of the year kept Seth McClung from taking the loss, though the right-hander's winless stretch reached four straight starts. The Devil Rays, playing in their first West Coast road trip of the year, lost for the fifth time in six games.
Huff and Julio Lugo combined to go 0-for-8 in the second game back for both players following long stints on the disabled list.
Zito didn't make it easy for any of the hitters, getting a large number of first strikes and working efficiently all game, but missed a chance for his first home victory of 2006.
"This game is capable of showing us something new every day," Zito said. "I saw two things I'd never seen."
Payton stole his first base -- if you can truly call it that -- in a silly, second-inning play for the A's. Everybody lost track of the pitch count and Payton jogged to second when Johnson headed toward first thinking he had drawn a walk. But it was only ball three. The ball was thrown back to McClung, who glanced to the dugout and saw Maddon hold up three fingers, but by that time it was too late to make a throw and no fielders were covering second base anyway.
"It was probably the most benign stolen base in history," Maddon said.
McClung said he knew it was ball three, but it didn't hit him immediately that Payton might be going to second.
"I was sitting there kind of looking at the umpire and thinking it's three," McClung said. "And then it hit me, 'Payton is probably walking down to second.' I looked and he was."
Johnson did walk moments later and Scutaro also drew a free pass, but Kendall grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
- It was Payton's first stolen base in the AL. He hadn't had one since 2004 with San Diego.
- Tampa Bay fell to 0-7 against left-handed starters this season.
- Nick Swisher's first-inning double extended his streak for safely reaching base to 25 games.
- Devil Rays DH Jonny Gomes, a San Francisco native who grew up about an hour north of Oakland in Petaluma, will have more than 200 fans from his hometown in the stands Sunday -- in a section to be called "Gomes Zone." This weekend is his first time playing back in the Bay Area as a major leaguer.
- McClung made his first career start against the A's.