Athletics 12, Devil Rays 5

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Each year as the Athletics approach the end of April, they typically begin to figure things out.

Oakland’s struggling offense produced more runs in two innings Saturday than it had in the previous four games combined—a sign to the hitters they might be coming around and also to the pitchers who have been keeping the team in games despite working with such a small margin for error.

Saturday’s success certainly made for a happy Dan Haren, who watched the A’s score their most runs in one of his outings since August on the way to a 12-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that ended a three-game skid.

“It’s the same thing every year. It’s not new,” shortstop Bobby Crosby said of Oakland’s slow starts. “And every year, we don’t panic.”

Travis Buck hit a three-run homer in the A’s six-run first, Eric Chavez also hit a three-run shot on his bobblehead giveaway day and Mark Ellis added his first homer of the year. Crosby and Dan Johnson each drove in two runs.

Haren struck out a season-high seven and didn’t walk a batter in 7 1-3 innings to win his third straight start.

“Kinda lucky,” Haren said of being staked to a huge lead. “I’ve had my share of unlucky this year, too.”

Finally breaking out of their collective funk at the plate had to be encouraging for the beat-up A’s, who have looked little like the defending AL West champions in another sub-par April hindered by injuries. While Oakland’s starting pitchers have been superb, they often have had little to show for it because of the team’s scoring troubles.

The runs were the second-most of the season for the A’s behind a 16-4 showing April 20 at Texas and marked just the second time the club has scored 10 or more.

“We’ve played some boring games here,” Ellis said. “Our pitching’s been great. We’ll just try to stay consistent.”

B.J. Upton hit a solo home run in the second on one of few mistake pitches by Haren (3-2) and Upton also doubled in the fifth and scored again, but Tampa Bay managed little else with its bats a day after the Devil Rays snapped an 11-game losing streak in the Pacific Time Zone with 4-1 win.

Upton went 3-for-4 and Elijah Dukes ended an 0-for-14 streak with runners in scoring position with an RBI single in the fifth. Dukes finished with a career-best three hits.

Jonny Gomes hit an RBI double in the eighth against Haren, who hadn’t been part of a game with this much offense since a 12-10 victory against Toronto on Aug. 21. Haren then struck out Carl Crawford before he was relieved by Justin Duchscherer.

“A lot of times when we’ve struggled a few games in row, we’ve had that big explosion,” Haren said. “Let’s hope it carries on.”

Casey Fossum (2-2), coming off back-to-back wins over Baltimore and the New York Yankees, got in trouble in a hurry. He was tagged for a season-high nine runs in five innings. The left-hander gave up six or more earned runs for the third time in five starts, allowed nine hits, struck out five and walked three.

“I dug myself into a hole,” Fossum said. “It’s frustrating to put the team down six runs in the first.”

Pitching coach Jim Hickey paid him a visit in the first after a two-out walk to Mike Piazza followed by Crosby’s RBI single and a two-run single from Johnson. Piazza and Crosby advanced on left fielder Crawford’s wild throw past Upton at second that traveled all the way to the visiting bullpen area.

Ellis followed Johnson’s single with a base hit, then Buck sent the first pitch from Fossum over the left-field fence for the rookie’s second homer.

The Devil Rays allowed five first-inning runs Thursday against the Angels, then had another bad one Saturday.

“We need consistency,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We just let the game get away. Casey was OK. We haven’t played very well behind him.”

Bobby Kielty briefly returned to the A’s lineup to play left field after sitting out in recent days with a strained left calf, but was replaced by Danny Putnam in the top of the third. Kielty apparently had problems on the bases in the second after singling to get aboard. Trainer Larry Davis and manager Bob Geren came out to check on him at third before he scored on Piazza’s hit.

Notes

Fossum plunked Ellis in the second, the 44th hit batsman by the lefty since the start of the 2004 season. … Crawford’s error followed by SS Ben Zobrist’s fielding miscue in the second gave Tampa Bay 21 errors in its last 18 games. The Devil Rays committed only one in their initial six contests. … The A’s sent RHP Marcus McBeth to the Cincinnati Reds as one of the two players to be named later in Friday’s trade that brought OF Chris Denorfia to Oakland. … The previous 10 games between the clubs had been decided by three or fewer runs.

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