Oakland (64-64) at Tampa Bay (48-78)

Partly Cloudy Currently: St. Petersburg, FL, US
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Thu Aug 23, 2007
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Oakland Athletics still have hope they can return to the playoffs. A weekend series against the team with the worst record in the majors may help their effort.

The Athletics (64-64) look to move back over .500 for the first time in more than a month Thursday night when they open a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Oakland has won four straight and eight of its last 10, sweeping a three-game series at Toronto with a 4-1 win on Wednesday. Esteban Loaiza won his season debut with 7 2-3 effective innings, while Jack Cust hit a two-run homer as part of a four-run seventh inning.

The A’s reached .500 for the first time since they were 44-44 at the All-Star break. The last time they were above .500 was July 7 when they were 44-43.

“It happens every year,” outfielder Nick Swisher said. “Considering all the injuries and stuff that we’ve had, it’s taken a little longer to get it going but if we can continue to play this kind of baseball, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. We’re putting a lot of pressure on other teams.”

Oakland is still in third place in the AL West, trailing the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are nine games ahead of Oakland for the wild card, but the A’s aren’t counting themselves out from defending their division title.

“It’s coming together,” manager Bob Geren said. “The atmosphere is great. The team is right there and I really feel like we all think we can win every night. It’s a good feeling.”

The A’s will start Chad Gaudin (9-9, 4.25 ERA), who has lost six of his last seven decisions. He gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings on Saturday in a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.

“I thought I pitched a decent game,” Gaudin said. “You’re going to give up hits. You’re going to give up runs. You’re going to give up home runs. You’ve just got to minimize it.”

Gaudin has a 7.54 ERA over his last eight starts. He fell to 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in one start and one relief appearance against the Devil Rays (48-78) after giving up four runs - three earned - and four hits in four innings against them in a 4-1 loss on April 27.

Jason Hammel (1-3, 6.70) will counter for Tampa Bay. In his second year in the majors, the right-hander is 0-9 with a 7.53 ERA in 15 career starts, including 0-3 with a 7.11 ERA in six starts this season. Hammel allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings Saturday in an 8-1 loss against the Cleveland Indians.

“His velocity was there, but the overall command was not there with any of his pitches,” manager Joe Maddon told the Devil Rays’ official Web site.

Hammel has never faced the A’s.

Tampa Bay (48-78) avoided a three-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox by winning 2-1 on Wednesday. Edwin Jackson pitched six solid innings and B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the only runs the Devil Rays needed.

Oakland and Tampa Bay have split six meetings this season. Upton is 11-for-24 (.458) with three homers in those games.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Gaudin LAD vs. J. Hammel KC
11-13 Record 3-5
4.42 ERA 6.14
154 K 64
100 BB 40
1.53 WHIP 1.65