With a 10-game trip looming after the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Rays are making the most of their time at Tropicana Field.
The Rays go for their 10th straight victory at home Saturday night as they continue their three-game set with the Oakland Athletics.
“It’s good, but it’s only halfway through,” Niemann said. “We have another three months left, so you can’t get too happy or contented.”
Tampa Bay has won 24 of 29 at Tropicana Field and is an AL-best 30-13 at home, compared to 18-26 on the road. Following the All-Star break, the Rays resume play next Friday with 10 games in as many days away from Tampa.
The Rays hand the ball to right-hander Matt Garza(notes) (6-6, 3.70 ERA) on Saturday. They’ll be looking to move within one game of matching a franchise-best 11-game home winning streak, set from April 22-May 13, 2008.
Garza, 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA in last home seven starts, surrendered five runs over five innings of Sunday’s 5-2 loss at Texas. He went 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his previous two outings.
Garza is 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in two starts against Oakland in 2009. He struck out eight and gave up two runs over 6 2-3 innings of a 6-5 win over the A’s on May 21.
“It’s a family thing, and we’d rather keep that private,” manager Bob Geren told the Athletics’ official Web site.
Braden (6-7, 3.13) last pitched July 1 in a 5-1 victory over Detroit. He yielded one run and five hits over seven innings to earn his first victory since June 5.
Oakland (35-49) lost its third in a row Friday while getting shut out for the sixth time this season. The A’s are batting an AL-worst .242.
“We stayed away from the big inning, as far as our pitching went,” Geren said. “We just didn’t score.”
Oakland has dropped 11 of 15 and is 14 games below .500 for the first time in 2009.