Athletics 6, Devil Rays 1

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Rich Harden was barely bothered by a two-week layoff.

The right-hander allowed just one run in his first start of the season, and Erubiel Durazo hit a two-run single during a four-run sixth inning to lead the Oakland Athletics past the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-1 Sunday.

Harden (1-0) missed his scheduled start last Wednesday against Baltimore because of a blister on his right middle finger. He allowed five hits, two walks and had five strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.

“Overall, I was pretty happy with the way I felt out there,” said Harden, whose last start came during spring training on March 27. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been a while since I’ve been out there.”

The Athletics signed Harden to a $9 million, four-year contract on April 2, a deal that includes a club option for 2009. Moved up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation after the December departures of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, Harden received a $1 million signing bonus.

“I was extremely pleased with the way he threw the ball,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.

Harden had no problems with the blister.

“Hopefully, I can get back into the routine,” he said. “I felt strong out there.”

Durazo ended an 0-for-10 slump with a two-run single off reliever Trever Miller that put Oakland up 5-0 in the sixth. Scott Hatteberg added a solo homer in the ninth.

Dewon Brazelton (0-2), Tampa Bay’s opening day starter, went five-plus innings, giving up three runs, five hits and six walks. He struck out four.

“I wasn’t very pleased with all the walks,” Brazelton said. “That’s something I can’t do. I never got into a rhythm.”

Oakland failed to score after loading the bases with one out in the second. Brazelton struck out Nick Swisher and retired Marco Scutaro on a fly ball.

The Athletics took a 1-0 lead when Swisher snapped an 0-for-10 slide with a broken-bat RBI single in the fourth.

Oakland wasted another bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fifth when Hatteberg struck out and Eric Byrnes flied out.

The Athletics were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position through the fifth inning. They went 6-for-31 during the past three games.

Brazelton was lifted after opening the sixth by walking Keith Ginter and Swisher. After Scutaro advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, Travis Harper intentionally walked Mark Kotsay to load the bases.

Jason Kendall made it 2-0 with an RBI single. Eric Chavez added a sacrifice fly before Durazo’s two-run single.

Durazo’s hit came after a fan appeared to impede third baseman Nick Green’s attempt to catch a foul popup in the first row of the third-base stands.

“You let the hometown guy catch it,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said.

Tampa Bay’s Travis Lee hit an RBI single off Justin Duchscherer in the sixth. Third baseman Chavez made a nice play on a hard grounder by Josh Phelps later in the inning with two runners on to start an inning-ending double play.

“That’s why Chavez has the Gold Glove,” Macha said. “Phelps hit a rocket down there. That’s probably the biggest play of the game.”

Kiko Calero worked a scoreless eighth, and Octavio Dotel finished up for Oakland.


Chavez (2-for-10) and Durazo (1-for-12)—Oakland’s No. 3 and No. 4 hitters—were a combined 3-for-22 during the three-game series. … Tampa Bay CF Joey Gathright was thrown out attempting to steal second in the fifth. It ended the Devil Rays’ season-opening streak of nine successful stolen base tries. … Kotsay singled in the eighth and has a hit in all six games this season. … The Devil Rays took two of three from Oakland, but are 19-50 all-time against the Athletics.

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