The surging Athletics look for their eighth win in nine games on Saturday night when they continue a three-game set against the struggling Devil Rays at McAfee Coliseum.
Oakland (63-52) is hitting .250 for the season and only Tampa Bay’s .249 team average is worse. The Athletics and Devil rays are the only two teams in baseball still searching for their 1,000th hits.
Oakland, however, boasts one of the top pitching staffs in baseball while Tampa Bay (47-69) has one of the worst. It’s a major reason why the A’s are leading the AL West while the Devil Rays languish at the bottom of the AL East.
Oakland used another strong effort on the mound to open this series with a 5-2 victory on Friday. Starter Dan Haren allowed both runs and five hits over seven innings as the A’s rallied from an early 2-0 deficit.
Bobby Kielty, who entered the game in a 5-for-24 slump, hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth inning that put Oakland ahead for good.
“I’ve just been feeling good lately,” he said. “Playing here and there, it’s tough to get locked in, but I’ve been able to keep myself somewhat fresh and have some good at-bats.”
Saturday starter Joe Blanton (12-9, 4.61 ERA) seeks his career-high 13th victory for Oakland. Blanton matched his win total from last season on Sunday by recovering from a rough first inning to give up three runs over six innings in a 7-6 victory at Seattle.
“He was up in the zone in the first inning,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “But he settled down and got us to the seventh. He did a good job.”
The right-hander is looking for his first career victory against the Devil Rays after going 0-2 with an 8.47 ERA in four career starts against them.
Tampa Bay fell to 0-4 on its six-game road trip and 3-13 on the road against AL West opponents with Friday’s loss. The Devil Rays have dropped 15 of their last 16 away from home.
Left fielder Carl Crawford went 0-for-4 and is hitless in his last 11 at-bats. It’s the third time this season that Crawford hasn’t had a hit in three straight games.
Casey Fossum (6-4, 4.63) will make his first career start at McAfee Coliseum for Tampa Bay on Saturday. Fossum is 1-0 with a 5.84 ERA against Oakland in six career appearances, including one start.
The left-hander hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 13 innings after giving up an unearned run and three hits over six innings in an 8-5 victory over Boston last Saturday. He’s struck out 15 over his last two outings.
“(His) slider really gives righties a hard time,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “A slider to a righty is a tough pitch.”
Fossum is 2-2 with a 6.43 ERA in nine road starts this year.
Oakland and Tampa Bay have split four meetings this season with each contest being decided by three runs or less.