The Tampa Bay Rays are well aware that setting the franchise record for victories in a season isn’t enough to get them to the playoffs.
They’ll be trying to build off their historic win on Tuesday when they open a three-game road series versus the slumping Oakland Athletics.
AL East-leading Tampa Bay picked up an 11-3 win in Seattle on Sunday, securing its club-record 71st victory and surpassing the 70-91 mark set in 2004. It was the Rays’ third straight win and helped them increase their division advantage over second-place Boston.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon was blunt in recognizing the victory, saying, “It’s going to take more than that.”
Tampa Bay (71-46) will have to continue its pursuit of the team’s first postseason appearance on Tuesday without the services of All-Star rookie Evan Longoria, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a right wrist fracture.
Longoria was injured on Thursday, when he was hit by a pitch from Seattle closer J.J. Putz. The 22-year-old is third baseman is hitting .278 and leads the Rays with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. His 22 homers rank sixth overall in the AL, first among rookies.
Longoria’s absence comes at a particularly bad time for Tampa Bay, which is already without outfielder Carl Crawford, who was placed on the 15-day DL Sunday with a hand injury.
In the meantime, the Rays found a solution in Rocco Baldelli, who drove in a run on Sunday in his first game since being activated from the 60-day DL. The outfielder missed the final 124 games of 2007 with a hamstring injury and all of this year with mitochondrial disorder.
“You have to look at what we do have. And the guys that we do have are going to produce,” catcher Shawn Riggans told the Rays’ official Web site. “Everybody’s still got to go out there, and we’re going to play hard and usually that will work out for some victories.”
Riggans hit a three-run homer on Sunday, while Willy Aybar went deep twice and drove in a career-high four runs for the Rays, who won for the 10th time in 12 games.
Tampa Bay has won each of Scott Kazmir’s last four starts, but he has received a decision just once in that span - a home victory against Oakland (54-63) on July 21.
On Wednesday, Kazmir (8-5, 3.20 ERA) gave up five runs and a season-high nine hits in a 10-7 home win after lasting 4 1-3 innings. It was the eighth time in 10 starts he failed to pitch at least six innings, but he tossed a successful bullpen session on Friday to correct his mechanics, according to the team’s site.
The left-hander could benefit from a matchup versus Oakland, against whom he is 6-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 10 starts.
He is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last five games against the Athletics, winning both starts this year. He scattered two hits and fanned nine over seven innings in a 4-0 victory in July.
Kazmir faces an Oakland team that is 3-19 since the All-Star break - the worst mark in the majors in that span. The A’s wrapped up a 1-9 road trip with a 6-1 defeat to Detroit on Sunday, losing an eighth consecutive series for the first time since April 19-May 12, 1994.
“When you’re doing great, everything is easy, but when you’re doing bad, every little thing feels difficult,” outfielder Carlos Gonzalez told Oakland’s official Web site.
Starter Gio Gonzalez (0-1, 6.00) was saddled with one of the losses during Oakland’s forgettable road swing. The left-hander, making his first appearance in the majors, gave up a three-run homer in the first, but recovered by holding Toronto hitless over the next five innings in a 5-1 loss on Wednesday.
Oakland is 36-12 all-time versus Tampa Bay at home, but has dropped four of six overall in the 2008 series.