OAKLAND (AP) — Getting the chance to play first base for the first time, Tim Beckham figured he might as well hit like a slugging first baseman instead of a middle infielder.
Beckham made the most of his emergency position switch by hitting a homer and sparking a four-run inning with his eighth straight hit over three games to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night.
“That’s not an easy thing,” manager Kevin Cash said. “That’s uncomfortable to go play somewhere in a big league ballgame. You can imagine there’s probably some nerves and anxiety.”
With Logan Morrison sidelined by an injured right forearm and Steve Pearce needing a day off, Beckham was Tampa Bay’s best option to play first despite never having played the position.
He took infield before the game and got some quick lessons from bench coach Tom Foley before taking the field with one of Pearce’s gloves.
“I just told myself I trust in my ability,” Beckham said. “Just trust in my ability and be comfortable over there. It helped out.”
While he played error-free defense and made a nice play on a forceout in the ninth, it was his bat that did the biggest damage.
He followed up a five-hit game in Colorado on Wednesday by hitting a solo homer in the second against Sonny Gray (4-9) and then adding a leadoff single in the big fifth inning that gave Tampa Bay the lead for good.
Beckham, who started the streak with a single in his final at-bat Monday, was finally retired when he popped out to end the sixth but by then he had done his damage. His eight hits in eight at-bats — he walked in his other plate appearance — were one more hit than he had in 41 at-bats in all of June.
Corey Dickerson homered and drove in three runs, and Logan Forsythe, Brad Miller and Evan Longoria added RBI hits in the fifth inning to back a solid start by Matt Moore (6-7).
Moore allowed a three-run homer to Jake Smolinski in the second but nothing else in seven innings to earn his first win in eight road starts this season.
“I think that kind of woke me up,” Moore said of the homer. “It was early in the game. We were just trying to set the tone by throwing strikes, pounding the zone early.”
Alex Colome got three outs for his 21st save in as many chances to give the Rays their first three game winning streak since June 12-15. Tampa Bay has won four of five following a 3-24 stretch that was the worst in franchise history.
Gray, who snapped a seven-game losing streak last Saturday against Toronto, was unable to build on that success. He allowed seven runs and nine hits in five innings.
“That game kind of went how my year’s been, giving up the home run then having the big inning,” Gray said. “I thought at the start of the fifth inning I made some pretty good pitches, and suddenly it’s first and second with nobody out and then it didn’t go well from there.”