Oakland and Tampa Bay have taken turns dominating the first two contests of their four-game set at Tropicana Field. Joe Blanton may give the Athletics an advantage over the Devil Rays on Saturday, however, as he goes to the mound trying to remain unbeaten in August.
Oakland (65-65) had 16 hits to win Thursday’s opener 12-2, but Tampa Bay (49-79) answered with a win on Friday by the same score when James Shields took a shutout into the ninth inning before giving up a two-run homer to Dan Johnson.
“It was the same night, just reversed outcome,” said Oakland’s Jack Cust, whose team had a five-game winning streak snapped. “Yeah, it’s strange. We were saying that before it even got to the same score as last night.”
The Devil Rays (49-79), who own the worst record in the majors, tied their largest margin of victory this season and scored their most runs since July 20.
Dioner Navarro hit a two-run homer and a two-run double for Tampa Bay while B.J. Upton also had a two run-shot and an RBI single. Carl Crawford went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to boost his August batting average to .415 and Carlos Pena recorded his 82nd RBI, matching his career high set in 2004.
Another big offensive night for Tampa Bay might be tough to pull off against Blanton (11-8, 3.84 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts this month and has been particularly dominant in winning the last two.
The right-hander threw seven scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 15, and held Toronto to one run and six hits over seven innings in a 6-4 victory on Monday.
“I threw some good change-ups, threw some pretty good sliders,” Blanton said after beating the Blue Jays. “It was probably the best curveball I’ve had all year.”
Blanton has not walked a batter while striking out 11 over his last two outings. His impressive run in August comes after he went 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA during his final five starts of July.
He is 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA in six career starts versus the Devil Rays, including a 5-3 win on May 6 when he allowed three runs—two earned—and 11 hits over 7 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay will counter with Scott Kazmir (9-8, 3.65), who is coming off a shaky start. The left-hander gave up a season-high six runs and seven hits with four walks over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-0 defeat to Boston on Monday.
He struck out eight to bring his season total to 176, which broke the team record (174) he set in 2005. Kazmir also snapped a 16-inning scoreless streak and allowed his first homer in 10 starts.
“I just have to let this one go,” said Kazmir, who had allowed just one run in 25 innings over his previous four starts. “It’s frustrating losing all the time.”
Kazmir is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA in seven career starts versus the A’s, going 1-0 in two outings this season while holding them to three runs through 13 innings.