Oakland (15-22) at Tampa Bay (20-22)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 4:08 pm EDT Thu May 21, 2009
  • TV: CSCA, FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has been reportedly working with team executives on a contract extension. Another loss to the lowly Oakland Athletics certainly wouldn’t help his cause.

The Rays look to avoid losing three straight to the last-place Athletics for the first time since Maddon’s first season at the helm as the teams conclude a four-game series Thursday.

Maddon, in the final year of his deal after leading Tampa Bay to its first AL pennant last year, is apparently close to a three-year extension through 2012.

Maddon and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman declined to comment Wednesday, but first baseman Carlos Pena(notes) was thrilled about the expected deal.

“He built this,” Pena said. “Obviously he deserves it. Any positive news is welcome. We feed off positive energy. When this gets done, everyone is going to be very happy for Joe, believe me.”

Maddon, last season’s AL Manager of the Year, has seen the Rays (20-22) bounce back from an 8-14 start. Tampa Bay had won 12 of 18 before losing its last two to Oakland (15-22).

The Rays haven’t lost three in a row to the A’s since dropping four straight in 2006, Maddon’s first year with Tampa Bay. The Rays finished with 101 losses.

Tampa Bay’s pitching, though, couldn’t contend with Oakland’s light-hitting lineup in a 7-6 loss Wednesday night.

Orlando Cabrera(notes) was one of six A’s players to drive in at least a run. The veteran shortstop is batting .412 (7 for 17) with two homers and four RBIs in his last four games.

Following another dismal outing by Scott Kazmir(notes), Matt Garza(notes) (4-2, 3.50 ERA) — who is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last four starts—will take the mound for the Rays. The right-hander gave up two runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-2 win over Cleveland on Saturday.

Garza struggled at Oakland on April 25, surrendering four runs and four hits while walking four in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-2 setback. He suffered a loss in his only other appearance versus the A’s despite allowing just one run and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of relief in a 1-0 defeat on Sept. 13, 2006.

Dallas Braden(notes) (3-5, 3.64), who will take the mound for Oakland, matched up with Garza on April 25, earning the win after yielding one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. He’s 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance versus the Rays.

Braden, though, has lost his last three starts, posting a 6.35 ERA and a .347 opponents’ batting average. He continues to nurse a right index finger suffered May 10 against Toronto, the second of the three losses in his streak.

“I’m never going to make excuses,” Braden told the A’s official Web site. “But I’ve been working on flexibility with the hand, and it feels pretty good, so I’m good to go.”

The left-hander allowed a season-high six runs and nine hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss to Detroit on Saturday.

Braden will be facing a Rays lineup that got homers from Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar(notes) on Wednesday.

Pena’s 14th homer ended a stretch of 40 straight at-bats without going deep. Aybar, meanwhile, didn’t have any this season before hitting one in each of the last two games.

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Starting Pitchers

D. Braden Oak vs. M. Garza Mil
8-9 Record 8-12
3.89 ERA 3.95
81 K 189
42 BB 79
1.36 WHIP 1.26

Scoreboard

Thursday, May 21