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OAK@TB: Pena ties the game with a monster home run

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays commiserated over a loss on Joe Maddon's 1,000th game as manager in typical Maddon-fashion: With a three-man mariachi band performing in the clubhouse following the 4-3 extra-inning defeat to the A's.

"This team is different than any other team I've ever been on," said Joel Peralta, who surrendered a 12th-inning solo homer to former Ray Jonny Gomes. "That's why I think we win more often than not."

Before Maddon arrived, the Rays struggled to find their identity through three managers as Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae and Lou Pinella combined to go 518-775 at the helm.

Over the past seven seasons, Maddon has epitomized the club with his avant-garde approach to managing, resulting in a 514-486 record.

Before his 1,000th game as the leader of the Rays, Maddon discussed the theoretical approach of the organization in which players exist in a "land of opportunity."

On a night in which the world delighted in a supermoon event and the 23,890 in attendance at Tropicana Field festively celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday, the Rays needed something majestic to happen to salvage the shortest start in Jeremy Hellickson's career.

Unfortunately for the Rays, two former players who matured under Maddon's guidance played a role in Tampa Bay suffering its first loss in seven games and the second loss in 15 home contests.

Gomes smacked a solo homer off Peralta that barely cleared the wall in left to give the A's a 4-3 lead in the 12th and Grant Balfour sealed the win with a scoreless relief effort as the Rays fell to 19-9 on the season. The Rays hold a half-game lead in the American League East over the Orioles, who beat the Yankees earlier in the day.

"It's just one of those nights," said Maddon, who joined Mike Scioscia (Angels), Ron Gardenhire (Twins) and Charlie Manuel (Phillies) as the only managers with at least 1,000 games with their current teams. "I'm really proud of our guys in the way they battled and hung in there, though. The bullpen was superb and we had a lot of really good at-bats."

The Rays were attempting to capture their 11th straight home win, which would have tied a club record set from April 22 to May 13 in 2008.

Three solo blasts by the Rays -- Elliot Johnson in the third, Ben Zobrist in the fourth and Carlos Pena in the fifth -- helped Hellickson avoid losing for the first time since the postseason defeat to the Rangers in the 2011 American League Division Series. The playoff loss was coincidentally the previous shortest outing for Hellickson, in which he lasted just four innings.

Prior to Saturday, his shortest start in the regular season occurred last season when he lasted 4 1/3 innings against the Yankees on August 13. The last time he suffered a loss in the regular season was on August 30th of the 2011 campaign against the Rangers.

Hellickson was relieved by Maddon after tossing 102 pitches over 3 2/3 innings on Saturday. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits while striking out two and walking three.

"My fastball command just wasn't there," said Hellickson, who threw 59 strikes. "I felt fine, but I just had a tough time being consistent with the fastball."

The key to the Rays sustaining viability against A's starter Bartolo Colon was an effective bullpen, which has allowed just seven earned runs in 42 2/3 innings over 14 games since April 21. Six relievers combined to strike out six and walk three over 7 1/3 innings against the A's.

"The bullpen has done an amazing job for us and they were phenomenal again tonight," Maddon said. "I was trying not to use Peralta and [Wade Davis], but I ended up having to use Joel and ended up having to warm up Wade."

Brandon Gomes tossed two innings for the first time since doing the same last season on July 29 against the Mariners. It was an adventure for Gomes, who threw 42 pitches on Saturday after tossing 24 in 2/3 of an inning on Friday.

In the 10th, Gomes threw only four of his first 17 pitches for strikes and loaded the bases with one out. He escaped unscathed when six of his last eight pitches crossed the plate for strikes.

Because of the workload, Gomes was optioned to Triple-A Durham following the game. The Rays will make a corresponding move before Sunday's contest.

Peralta snapped his streak of 10 straight scoreless appearances, dating back to April 15 against the Red Sox, and surrendered his first home run since the Yankees' Nick Swisher smacked one off him on April 7.

"I have to be better than that," said Peralta, who has appeared in four of the Rays' last five contests. "I threw a splitter and it was supposed to go down, but it just hung there. I just missed the pitch and I paid for it."

Despite the loss, players clapped, danced and celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday as the mariachi band played several songs.

"Sure, it would have been a little louder in here had we won, but we couldn't let this night go without having some type of celebration," said Pena, who hit his fifth homer of the season. "This is the type of team we have and there's no reason to change who we are."

Maddon agreed.

"I understand and appreciate how hard they play and how much they care about the game," Maddon said. "A loss is a loss. It's just that, nothing more, nothing less. Bring on the mariachis."

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