Oakland (68-52) at Tampa Bay (55-66)

  • Game info: 7:15 pm EDT Fri Aug 20, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Rich Harden shoots for his fifth straight victory as the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

The 22-year-old right-hander is unbeaten since the All-Star break, going 4-0 in seven outings while posting a 2.51 ERA and holding opponents to a .210 batting average. Harden gave up just one run and five hits over six innings in a 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday despite struggling with his control.

“I didn’t have the best command,” said Harden, who walked four for the second straight outing. “In the past, when I got in trouble, I got into that whole overthrowing thing … maybe an inning like that would’ve gotten three or four runs against me.”

Instead, Harden stranded nine of 10 baserunners.

“I’ve seen a lot of maturity since April,” A’s catcher Damian Miller said. “He’s doing a better job of not getting rattled when he gives up a run here and there. He’s doing a better job of executing pitches and getting guys out with men in scoring position.”

Erubiel Durazo hit three homers and drove in all five runs to lead the Athletics to a 5-4 victory Wednesday. He went 4-for-4, matching his career high for hits, in the second three-homer game of his career.

“I just feel real good at the plate and I’m seeing the ball real good,” said Durazo, who is batting .524 (22-for-42) with four three-hit games over his last 11.

The A’s completed a three-game sweep and climbed 16 games above .500 for the second time this season. Oakland has won five straight on the road, its longest streak since a 10-game run in 2002.

The Devil Rays have lost eight of their last nine, including a 10-7 defeat to the Anaheim Angels on Thursday.

Carl Crawford homered and stole his major-league leading 50th base to become the seventh active player to steal 50 bases in each of his first two full major league seasons.

“I’ve been blessed with the talent to run fast,” said Crawford, who is 5-for-9 with a triple and three stolen bases career against Harden. “I have to do anything I can to help the team win. And that means stealing bases.”

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Starting Pitchers

R. Harden MIN vs. J. Sosa MIA
11-7 Record 4-7
3.99 ERA 5.53
167 K 94
81 BB 54
1.33 WHIP 1.55