The Tampa Bay Rays likely won’t have it easy over the next few weeks with two of their top hitters out of the lineup.
The first-place Rays look to bounce back from a rare loss as they continue their three-game road set with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.
Tampa Bay (71-47) fell 2-1 at Oakland in Tuesday’s opener for its third loss in 13 games in its first contest since both rookie All-Star Evan Longoria (wrist) and Carl Crawford (hand) were placed on the disabled list.
Two of the bigger bats for the AL East-leading Rays, Longoria is batting .278 with a team-leading 22 homers and 71 RBIs, while Crawford is hitting .273 with 57 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.
“Obviously it’s a tough situation, but this team has shown great perseverance all year and I expect it will continue,” said Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman.
On Tuesday, though, Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett had two hits while Akinori Iwamura drove in the lone run for the Rays, who were stymied by A’s rookie Gio Gonzalez and now hold a three-game lead over Boston in the division.
The Rays are 12-37 at McAfee Coliseum, their worst record in any AL ballpark.
Rocco Baldelli, playing just his second game after missing more than a year because of various injuries, went 1-for-3 and is 2-for-7 with an RBI in those two contests.
Tampa Bay could be in for another challenge Wednesday against Oakland All-Star Justin Duchscherer (10-7, 2.51 ERA), who is looking for his first victory since July 8.
Duchscherer allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, but for the second straight start didn’t factor in the decision of a 6-4 loss at Toronto on Thursday.
“It’s tough sometimes, the game of baseball,” Duchscherer told the A’s official Web site. “I call it the luck factor.”
The right-hander, who is 0-2 with a 4.83 ERA over his last five contests, will make his first start versus Tampa Bay, but is 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA in 18 relief appearance against the Rays.
Tampa Bay counters with Andy Sonnanstine (11-6, 4.40), trying for his second consecutive winning decision after losing three in a row.
Sonnanstine allowed a run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings, but didn’t factor in a 2-1 loss at Seattle on Thursday.
“Any time you’re challenging guys and getting them out, you don’t want to change too many things, and I felt like I was very aggressive,” Sonnanstine told the Rays’ official Web site. “Probably the most aggressive I’ve been in a while, so I think that was a good sign.”
The right-hander will make his third start versus Oakland this season after going 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA in the previous two. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three career outings against the A’s.
On Tuesday, Bobby Crosby’s two-run homer in the second inning was enough for Oakland (55-63), which won for the fourth time in 25 games since last winning consecutive contests July 10-11.
“We didn’t hit the cover off the ball but we got what we needed,” said Crosby of the A’s, who scored four runs or fewer for the 14th straight game, matching the Oakland record set in June 1978.
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