Tampa Bay (10-14) at Oakland (12-12)

Sunny Currently: Oakland, CA, US
Temp: 63° F
  • Game info: 4:05 pm EDT Sun Apr 29, 2007
  • TV: WXPX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Oakland Athletics pitching staff hasn’t gotten much help from the lineup this season, but that may be changing.

The Athletics try to build on one of their best offensive performances of 2007, when they conclude a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday at McAfee Coliseum.

Oakland’s pitchers have posted a 3.08 ERA overall this season, while the starting rotation has been even more impressive with a 2.21 ERA. The A’s lineup has been among the league’s worst, though, batting just .229 and averaging 3.8 runs per game.

Oakland finally broke out its offensive doldrums Saturday, beating the Devil Rays 12-5 to even the series and end a three-game losing streak. The A’s (12-12) scored their second-most runs of the season and improved to 6-1 when recording 10 or more hits.

Travis Buck and Eric Chavez each hit a three-run homer while Bobby Crosby and Dan Johnson drove in two runs apiece for the A’s, who improved to 35-9 all-time versus Tampa Bay (10-14) at home.

“We’ve played some boring games here,” said Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis, who hit his first home run of the season. “Our pitching’s been great. We’ll just try to stay consistent.”

One of the biggest surprises of Oakland’s starting rotation may turn out to be Dallas Braden (1-0, 1.50 ERA), who will make his second career start on Sunday. The left-hander, who was limited to 10 starts in the minors all of last season due to a shoulder injury, was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Monday to fill in for the injured Rich Harden.

The following day he allowed one run and three hits over six innings while striking out six in a 4-2 win over Baltimore. Braden permitted only one runner past second base in becoming the first Oakland starter to win in his big league debut since Aaron Harang in 2002.

“It’s hard to pitch on a cloud, but I tried to find a way to do it,” Braden said. “To be here now is a dream come true, as cliché as it might sound. … It’s amazing.”

Braden will be opposed by Rays ace Scott Kazmir (1-1, 4.40). Pitching with the flu in his last start, Kazmir allowed three runs - only one earned - and five hits over 6 2-3 innings while striking out five, but didn’t earn a decision in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over the New York Yankees.

“You just go out there and try to put the ball in a certain spot. It’s all you can do,” Kazmir told the Devil Rays’ official Web site of pitching while under the weather. ” When you’re gassed, you’ve got to just use what you have. You can’t overpower anyone. You just can’t miss your spot.”

The left-hander is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in five career starts versus the A’s. He’ll try to help the Devil Rays avoid their fourth loss in five games.

B.J. Upton was 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and three runs scored on Saturday, boosting his batting average to .357. The Tampa Bay second baseman is 5-for-7 versus the A’s this season and batting .526 (10-for-19) during a five-game hitting streak against them.

Oakland outfielder Bobby Kielty made a brief return to the lineup Saturday after being sidelined with a strained left calf, but left in the third after having problems on the bases.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Kazmir LAD vs. D. Braden OAK
13-9 Record 1-8
3.48 ERA 6.72
239 K 55
89 BB 26
1.38 WHIP 1.62

Scoreboard

Sunday, Apr 29