A's edge D-Rays on ball through Huff's legs

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- 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


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 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


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.

Pinch-hitter Greg Norton hit a tying solo home run with one out

in the eighth against Justin Duchscherer, spoiling Barry Zito's bid

to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season.

"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.

Kennedy stayed in the game and intentionally walked Ty Wigginton

to load the bases for Travis Lee with one out. Lee struck out and

Toby Hall followed with a soft liner.

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 here 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


"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.Game notes
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.