ST. PETERSBURG -- Jarrod Parker turned in his best pitching performance of the season Saturday night. Unfortunately for the A's, it was not quite good enough as the Rays rode Jeremy Hellickson's seven scoreless frames and a home run by Matt Joyce to 1-0 victory over the A's before 25,611 at Tropicana Field.
"One pitch, that was the difference in the ballgame," said Parker, who threw Joyce a 3-2 fastball that the Rays left fielder belted over the right-field fence in the second inning.
"I wish I could go back and get it," admitted the A's right-hander, who is now 0-3. "But I can't."
After the game, the A's clubhouse was as quiet as their offense was all night.
Three singles, a walk, and an error. That was the total of the A's offense. Thirty batters up, 27 down. No Oakland runner advanced beyond first base against Hellickson or Rays' relievers Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney.
"He pitched well," manager Bob Melvin said of Hellickson, who struck out six and walked one. "He kept us off balance."
With their bullpen taxed and their starting rotation a concern because of Brett Anderson's sprained ankle, the A's needed a solid performance from Parker, who had struggled in his first three starts.
They got it, as Parker hooked up in a pitcher's duel with Hellickson, limiting the Rays to six hits over the first 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking two.
"That's what we expect from Parker," said Melvin. "Other than that 3-2 pitch to Joyce, they didn't hit many balls hard all night.
"He got rolling, he felt comfortable and he got his confidence going. This was good for him and his confidence. And we were trying to give our bullpen a little bit of a break."
"It's coming along, it's a process," said Parker, who lowered his ERA from 10.80 to 7.50. "Tonight was something good to build off of. I had the sinker I've been looking for all year. When I'm at my best, I keep the ball down. That's a good sign."
Parker had struggled against the top of opponents' batting orders this season. The first three batters in lineups hit .700 against him going into Saturday night's game. On Saturday, the first three Rays batters, Desmond Jennings, Ryan Roberts and Ben Zobrist, went 2-for-10 against Parker with two walks.
"Oakland is like looking in a mirror. They pitch very well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I know Parker has been struggling to this point, but he's very good also. I thought Parker was due for a good game, and he threw it out there tonight. We've been swinging the bats well."
The Rays loaded the bases in the fifth with singles by Jose Molina and Jennings, plus a walk to Roberts. But Parker got Zobrist to ground to first to end the threat.
With Eric Sogard on first base and one away in the third inning, Coco Crisp flied to Jennings in center. But Sogard kept right on running, enabling Jennings to complete the first unassisted double play ever by a Rays outfielder, and the Major League's first unassisted double play by a center fielder that ended at first base since Pittsburgh's Andy Van Slyke on July 7, 1992, against Houston. The runner was Ken Caminiti.
"He [Sogard] knew how many outs there were, but he thought the ball was down, he thought it was going to drop, and he was trying to go from first to third," Melvin explained.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.