ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- The A's signed veteran third baseman Brandon Inge a week ago in the hopes he might give their struggling offense a lift.
On Sunday afternoon, Inge did exactly that, driving in four runs with a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly as the A's came from behind to prevail, 9-5, over the Rays at Tropicana Field for their fourth win in their last five games.
Down by four runs after the first inning, the A's responded with a five-run rally in the third off left-hander Matt Moore, thanks to RBI singles from Yoenis Cespedes and Jonny Gomes, followed by Inge's three-run homer to left.
"That felt like a 10-run homer, after the way we started," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was the biggest hit we had on this whole trip."
"I'm not used to being in RBI situations the last couple of years," said Inge, who was preceded in the batting order by slugger after slugger when he played for the Detroit Tigers. "Somebody else always came up and hit a home run ahead of me."
Before he homered off Moore, Inge was 2-for-21 against left-handed pitching this year.
"When you get down by four runs right away like we did, you're hoping it doesn't snowball," Inge said. "It could have turned into a 10-0 game. We needed to get something quick."
And they did. The five-run rally matched the A's biggest inning of the year.
Sunday's win sent the A's home with a satisfying 5-4 record on their their nine-day road trip that saw them win two out of three against both Boston and Tampa Bay after dropping 2 of 3 to Baltimore to open the trip.
"We'll take it," said a smiling Melvin.
"Awesome," agreed starter Tommy Milone, who survived the rocky first inning, in which he threw 41 pitches and surrendered four runs, to pitch five innings and pick up the win, his fourth of the year alongside two losses.
Milone is just the second A's pitcher in the last three years to allow five runs and still get the victory.
"For him to give us five innings in that fashion was terrific," said Melvin, who admitted he was a hitter or two away from taking Milone out of the game in the first, when Chris Gimenez grounded into a rally-killing double play.
"I don't really know what happened in that first inning," said Milone, who walked the first three Rays he faced. "I kind of lost control. Having thrown 41 pitches, I figured I wouldn't be in the game much longer. After that, I forgot all about the first inning. I just went out there and threw strikes.
"When we came right back like that with five runs, it was like the first inning never happened. This was a huge win for our club. It gives you a sense of what we're capable of."
Gomes and Daric Barton each knocked in two runs and relievers Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Brian Fuentes and Jordan Norberto blanked the Rays on one hit over the final four innings, boosting the bullpen's string of scoreless streak in this three-game series to 15 2/3 innings, during which they limited the Rays to just four hits.
"We had contributions across the board," Melvin said. "Our breathing room came with Barton's [fifth inning] double. We had a late night [Saturday] night, then we fell behind early with an excellent pitcher on the mound for them. And it didn't affect us. That was good to see."
Sunday marked the first time the A's have scored more than seven runs in a game since Sept. 10 of last season, 45 games ago.
As for the importance of Inge to the A's, Melvin said, "If he hits .230, that won't indicate the contribution he makes to this team."
"The biggest problem they had was they weren't hitting," said Rays' manager Joe Maddon. "And they hit the ball well. Another thing is, their defense wasn't supposed to be good and they played great defense against us. They played well and their pitcher pitched great."
Meanwhile, Inge sounded like a man who has found a new home.
"These guys never made me feel like I was not a part of this team," Inge said. "After the last couple of years, I'm not worried about nothing."
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.