It’s not surprising that the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had much success in Oakland over the years, but they seem to be making up for lost time.
The first-place Rays try to capture their third straight series at McAfee Coliseum - and second this season - when they finish a three-game set with the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Tampa Bay (72-47) lost 30 of 36 games in Oakland since its inception in 1998 through 2005. The Rays, however, have won three of their four previous series at the Coliseum and are in position to take another after a 3-2 win on Wednesday.
Eric Hinske went 3-for-3 with a homer and Ben Zobrist doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning as Tampa Bay improved to 4-2 on this 10-game road trip and maintained a three-game lead over Boston in the AL East.
Tampa Bay took two of three in its previous trip to Oakland this year from May 19-21.
The Rays have scored only four runs in this series and realize offense could be a problem with stars Carl Crawford and rookie Evan Longoria on the disabled list. The latest news on Crawford wasn’t good as Tampa Bay learned that the two-time All-Star will have surgery on his right hand and could be out for the season.
“We just keep on playing,” first baseman Carlos Pena said. “It’s important to focus on the present. This is a young team but we’ve behaved maturely and it happened naturally. We’re able to handle things.”
Tampa Bay’s James Shields (10-7, 3.65 ERA) tries to win consecutive road starts for the first time all season. Shields allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-3 win at Seattle last Friday to improve to 3-6 with a 5.74 ERA in 11 starts away from home this season.
The right-hander lost his first start against Oakland (55-64) on Sept. 8, 2006, but is 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his next four outings versus the Athletics. He is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts against them this year.
Sean Gallagher (1-1, 4.26) makes his sixth start for Oakland since also being acquired as part of that deal. His lone career start against Tampa Bay came with the Cubs on June 19, when he allowed one unearned run in six innings and did not get a decision in an 8-3 loss.
Gallagher won his Oakland debut on July 11, but the A’s have lost all four of his starts since. He has not pitched since Aug. 4 due to irritation in his right shoulder, but an MRI didn’t show anything worse than inflammation so he will return to the rotation.
The right-hander endured his shortest outing of the season his last time out as he gave up five runs over three innings in a 6-1 loss at Toronto.