Oakland (14-14) at Tampa Bay (13-16)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Sat May 5, 2007
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Oakland Athletics are quickly remembering how much they missed Nick Swisher in the starting lineup.

Now they hope he can lead them to back-to-back victories when they continue their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night.

Swisher strained his left hamstring on April 24 and the Athletics (14-14) went 2-5 without him in the starting lineup. After pinch-hitting for Mike Piazza Wednesday after he suffered a sprained shoulder that will sideline him for four to six weeks, Swisher returned to lineup Friday as a designated hitter for the first time this season.

He hit a tiebreaking three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth to lift the A’s to a 5-2 win in the series opener. He also drove in a run in the first with a sacrifice fly and is hitting .692 (9-for-13) with three homers, three doubles and nine RBIs in his last four games against the Devil Rays (13-16).

“I don’t do well when I can’t play,” said Swisher, who may return to the outfield Saturday. “I don’t know what to do. So I just bother a lot of people. It’s nice to get into the lineup.”

Oakland’s starting rotation has posted an impressive 2.59 ERA this season, and Joe Kennedy (0-2, 2.86 ERA) will look to lower that number on Saturday.

The left-hander is still searching for his first win of 2007 despite allowing only one earned run in each of his four starts. He held Seattle to one run and seven hits over five innings on April 26, but didn’t factor into the 4-2 defeat.

“I felt all right,” Kennedy told the A’s official Web site. “I definitely didn’t have my best fastball, but I was able to get my breaking stuff over.”

Kennedy is pitching on eight days rest as his last turn was skipped due to three off-days in Oakland’s schedule. He is making his first career start against the Devil Rays, with whom he played for from 2001-03.

Kennedy is 2-0 in four relief appearances versus Tampa Bay, allowing no runs through 4 1-3 innings. He will be opposed by Scott Kazmir (2-1, 4.06), who is making his second straight start versus Oakland.

The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings in a 5-3 win over the A’s on Sunday.

“I just tried to find my way through the game,” said Kazmir, who improved to 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA in six career starts against Oakland. “Early I tried to ease my way into it, but as the game went on, everything fell into place.

“I felt like my fastball was hitting both sides of the plate, and I was able to throw my change a lot more, which was effective.”

The Devil Rays’ ace is 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA over his last four starts, allowing only eight earned runs through 25 2-3 innings.

Tampa Bay missed a chance for its first three-game winning streak this season on Friday and was held to a season-low four hits. B.J. Upton had two of those to boost his batting average to an AL-leading .386.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Kennedy Tor vs. S. Kazmir Oak
4-9 Record 13-9
4.80 ERA 3.48
51 K 239
55 BB 89
1.57 WHIP 1.38

Scoreboard

Saturday, May 5