Zito, elected to the AL All-Star team Sunday, won for only the second time in nine starts Thursday despite giving up a career-high 10 hits for the second consecutive outing.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner had failed to get a decision in his three previous starts, but fought through 7 1-3 innings to beat Seattle 5-2. It was his longest outing since May 27.
“Even without his best stuff, Zito is still a pretty good pitcher,” Seattle’s Bret Boone said. “He gets away with it because he hits his spots so well.”
Zito, whose 3.12 ERA is sixth in the AL, has won back-to-back games only twice this year. The young left-hander opened the season with wins over Seattle and Texas, then beat the Chicago White Sox on April 29 and New York Yankees on May 4.
The A’s improved to 3-4 on their season-high 13-game homestand with a 6-5 win over Anaheim on Sunday.
The Devil Rays returned to their losing ways Sunday, following a season-high three straight wins with an 11-3 loss to the White Sox.
Manager Lou Piniella kept his promise to dye his hair if his team could string together three wins, then watched his Devil Rays get their longest winning streak since September snapped.
“We just got whoomped up,” the newly blonde Piniella said. “We talked about these things happening from time to time. … I’m talking about where we get roughed up. Nobody wants to see it, but it’s a matter of life as we’re constituted. It happens to other teams, too.”
Taking the mound for Tampa Bay on Tuesday will be righty Rob Bell, still in search of his first win since being called up from the minors on June 14.
STANDINGS: Devil Rays - 5th place, 23 GB, AL East. Athletics - 2nd place, 6 GB, AL West.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Bell (0-2, 8.05 ERA). Bell did not get a decision his last time out, giving up three earned runs and eight hits over six innings of Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Red Sox. He is 1-0 with a 7.27 ERA in five career starts against Oakland.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (8-5, 3.12 ERA). Zito has dominated Tampa Bay in his short career. He has won all four of his starts against the Devil Rays, posting a 0.90 ERA while allowing just 13 hits and striking out 30 over 30 innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .309 avg.; Aubrey Huff, 16 HRs, 49 RBIs and 47 runs; Carl Crawford, 19 SBs. Athletics - Eric Byrnes, .313 avg., 51 runs and 7 SBs.; Eric Chavez, 17 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 55 RBIs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: 8-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - Tampa Bay has lost eight straight in Oakland, dating to May 29, 2001. … RHP Lance Carter, who has 14 saves, was the lone Devil Rays player chosen for the AL All-Star team. … OF Jason Tyner, who has one hit in his last 18 at-bats, was optioned to Triple-A Durham after Sunday’s game. LHP Bobby Seay was recalled from the minors to take his place. Athletics - OF Eric Byrnes has only two hits in 24 at-bats (.083) this month. … LHP Zito has won just three of his eight home starts this season … Three other A’s were elected to the All-Star team—LHP Mark Mulder, RHP Foulke and C Ramon Hernendez.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 11-28 on the road; Athletics - 31-15 at home.