A walk to Athletics leadoff hitter Matt Joyce was all the convincing that Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi needed to pitch out of the stretch the remainder of the game.
It was an idea Odorizzi toyed with earlier in the day and the results were far better than he or Rays manager Kevin Cash envisioned.
Odorizzi and two relievers combined on a two-hitter, and Tampa Bay beat Oakland 3-2 on Monday night.
"Good to see Odo perform that way," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The stuff looked good. Everything looked much crisper today, and I'm just happy for him because we're going to need him."
Odorizzi (6-4) bounced back from his worst start of the season and went seven innings while striking out five and walking two. He gave up his lone hit when Khris Davis hit his 26th home run in the fourth but was otherwise dominant while not allowing another runner past first base.
Tommy Hunter pitched the eighth and Alex Colome retired three batters for his AL-leading 27th save.
"I felt more comfortable (out of the stretch)," Odorizzi said. "I don't know why, but I'm going to continue doing it. I felt everything was just a little more crisp and I was able to get the ball down in the zone better. "
Steven Souza hit his 19th home run, Evan Longoria also went deep and reached base three times while Adeiny Hechavarria added two hits for the Rays, who won for the third time in four games since the All-Star break.
Oakland pulled within 3-2 in the ninth when Yonder Alonso doubled, took third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch. Colome got Ryon Healy to ground out to end the game.
"We just couldn't get a bead on (Odorizzi)," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We were having a tough time getting a good swing, let alone hitting the ball hard. Give him some credit, he kept us off balance."
It's the fastest that Tampa Bay has reached 50 wins since 2013. More importantly, the ballclub pulled within two games of first-place Boston in the AL East, the closest the Rays have been since April 15.
The announced attendance of 9,736 was the smallest to see an A's game at the Coliseum since they drew 9,193 against Texas on May 2, 2011.
Souza homered leading off the second against A's starter Daniel Gossett, his second in three days.
Longoria singled in the first to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. After driving in Mallex Smith with a fielder's choice grounder in the third, Longoria hit a two-out home run in the fifth.
Tampa Bay second baseman Tim Beckham was ejected for the first time in his career by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after striking out looking in the fourth inning, one day after coming off the disabled list. Beckham also struck out in the second but reached when the ball skipped past A's catcher Bruce Maxwell.
Maxwell earned his keep in the first inning. The Oakland catcher took a hard foul ball directly off his facemask and had to be tended to by a team trainer after falling backward. Maxwell later tripped over the foot of Beckham and fell face down on the ground while trying to chase down the wild pitch. "It scares you a little bit, obviously," Melvin said of the first time Maxwell went down. "Stunned him for a minute but he was fine as the game went along."
Athletics: IF/OF Chad Pinder (strained left hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday. RHP Bobby Wahl (strained pitching shoulder) will join Pinder in Nashville on Thursday.
LHP Blake Snell (0-5, 4.85 ERA) makes another attempt at earning his first win of the season for Tampa Bay on Tuesday night in the second game of the series. The A's will go with RHP Chris Smith (0-0 4.50 ERA). The 36-year-old pitcher will be making his second career start.