The Oakland Athletics have the best record in the AL, and success on their upcoming trip could only reinforce their status as one of the league's top teams.
Off to their best road start in 23 seasons, the A's look to remain perfect away from home by continuing their recent success at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
Since opening with two straight losses, Oakland (12-4) has lost twice in 14 contests and is coming off a three-game sweep of the lowly Astros. The A's, who also swept series at Houston and the Los Angeles Angels, have not won their first seven road contests since opening 8-0 in 1990.
Oakland hit .326 and clubbed 13 of its 20 home runs while outscoring the Astros and Angels 51-20 on the trek. Manager Bob Melvin, however, expects his team's six-game trip to Tampa and Boston to be a stiffer task considering the Rays (5-10) should be eager to return from a 2-7 trip and the streaking Red Sox lead the AL East.
"It's our first trip out east, which always presents its challenges," Melvin told the Athletics' official website.
The A's should be a confident group at least in Tampa, where they've won six of nine while winning three straight series.
Oakland leads the majors with 96 runs and ranks near the top with a .354 on-base percentage while slugging .464.
"The offense is off the charts at this point,'' Melvin said. "We're hitting on all cylinders.''
Seth Smith had three hits and shortstop Jed Lowrie added two as the A's scored six times in the first inning of Wednesday's 7-5 win over Houston.
"We're getting contributions up and down the lineup and that's why we've been consistent so far,'' said Lowrie, who is batting .373 (22 for 59) with 13 RBIs this season.
Smith is hitting .447 (17 of 38) in 2013, but went 2 for 21 with six strikeouts against the Rays last season.
Scheduled Oakland starter Brett Anderson (1-2, 4.34 ERA) is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts versus Tampa Bay, but he gave up seven runs, eight hits, including three homers, and three walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday.
"I never really got into a rhythm," said the left-hander, who yielded two runs in each of his first two starts.
Tampa Bay blew a 3-0 led at Baltimore on Thursday and lost 10-6 in 10 innings on Matt Wieters' grand slam off Brandon Gomes. Evan Longoria hit one of four homers for the Rays, who have dropped eight of 10.
''I'm not worried about either side, pitching or hitting,'' Gomes said. ''This is a very talented team and we're going to be fine. We're going to hit our stride, everything's going to click and we're going to win a lot of ballgames."
The Rays hand the ball to Alex Cobb (1-1, 1.93), who is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA against the A's.
Cobb gave up four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-0 win over Cleveland in his 2013 debut, but gave up four runs and seven hits while throwing 106 pitches in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Boston on Sunday.
"I think in years past, I might have let things get away a little bit, kind of caved under the pressure, versus this year, I took the pressure head on," the right-hander told the Rays' official website. "I kind of told myself not to let this happen. Not to let those games that happened in the past happen."
Three of Longoria's four hits in his last 17 at-bats have left the park. He's 2 for 8 with a homer against Anderson.
The A's reinstated first baseman Brandon Moss from the paternity list hours before this game. Moss was batting .283 with 13 RBIs in 13 games when he was placed on the list Tuesday for the birth of his second son, Brody.
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