Athletics 5, Devil Rays 0

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Barry Zito looked sharp and felt comfortable against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The left-hander scattered four hits over eight shutout innings, leading the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics past the Devil Rays 5-0 on Saturday night.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a very long time,” Zito said. “I can’t remember the last time I felt like this. I don’t know if I ever have. I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Bobby Crosby, Marco Scutaro and Mark Kotsay homered for Oakland, which has won five straight. The Athletics have hit 14 homers—including seven solo shots the last two days—during the past four games.

Zito (9-9) struck out six and walked one to improve to 5-2 in eight starts since the All-Star break. He lost both of his starts against Tampa Bay last season, giving up 14 runs and 21 hits in 10 2-3 innings.

“The curveball was terrific,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “The command was there. He was great. You can’t say too much about him. He was outstanding.”

Only one baserunner—Carl Crawford in the sixth—reached third against Zito. Crawford was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Eric Chavez on a grounder by Jose Cruz Jr.

“Just being more violent on the changeup has really helped me,” Zito said. “It lets me get away with leaving it up every now and then. You’ll get a pop up or a foul ball back to the net instead of balls getting hit hard.”

Chris Hammond pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the five-hitter.

John Halama (6-6) gave up five runs and eight hits in five-plus innings for the Devil Rays, who have lost four straight and 10 of 11.

Tampa Bay’s Aubrey Huff left after the first inning with back spasms and is day to day. He was hurt running out a grounder.

“The trainers say it’s just a spasm, so that’s good,” Huff said.

Huff has a team-best 22 homers and 80 RBIs. He has played in 398 consecutive games.

“He might be able to play tomorrow,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.

Consecutive homers by Crosby and Scutaro gave Oakland a 2-0 lead in the third. Crosby, who broke out of a 3-for-40 slid with three hits Friday, has homered in two straight games.

Kotsay had been hitless in 15 at-bats against Tampa Bay this season before homering in the fifth to make it 3-0.

Erubiel Durazo had a run-scoring double, and Crosby hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to put the A’s ahead 5-0. Durazo has 11 RBIs in five games against Tampa Bay this year.

Crawford was involved in a strange double play in the first. He singled and later broke for second base before Huff hit a high-hopper to first that was fielded by Scott Hatteberg.

As Hatteberg flipped the ball to Zito for the out at first, Crawford stopped near second thinking it was a pop fly. Zito threw the ball to shortstop Crosby, who tagged out Crawford as he headed back toward first.

“He thought it was a pop up,” Piniella said. “I said, `That’s OK, but you’ve got to stay on second.’ I told him, `You can be faster than a speeding bullet and you’re still not to going to beat the first baseman. He was on the bag.”’

Crawford, who leads the majors with 50 stolen bases, made a diving catch in center on a drive by Crosby in the eighth.

“He plays hard,” Piniella said. “The kid plays with some passion and he plays to win.”


A’s OF Jermaine Dye (sore left thumb) missed his second straight game. … Devil Rays DH B.J. Upton turned 20 on Saturday. He went 2-for-4 and has a hit in 12 of his 15 games this season. … Zito threw 62 pitches through four innings, including 24 to Tampa Bay 1B Tino Martinez. He struck out looking on a 14-pitch at-bat in the second and walked on a 10-pitch at-bat two innings later. Martinez then struck out in the sixth on a nine-pitch at-bat. … Martinez wound up seeing 33 of Zito’s 105 pitches. “If we had two more Tinos, we could have got him (Zito) out of there,” a smiling Piniella said. … Halama has allowed 15 homers in 94 2-3 innings. … Oakland has won seven straight road games.

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