Athletics 9, Devil Rays 7

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Frank Thomas has been making the most of his at-bats.

The 38-year old Thomas homered for the fifth consecutive game and drove in three runs to help the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-7 on Sunday.

“I’m not trying to hit home runs,” Thomas said. “I want good at-bats and hit the ball hard. Now is the time to step on the gas. We have a special chance, and you don’t want to waste any at-bats or opportunties.”

Thomas has homered in five straight games three times in his career. It was the first since May 24-29, 1994. He tied the franchise record for homers in consecutive games held by George Alusik (1962), Dave Kingman (1986) and Matt Stairs (1998).

“He’s a tremendous example to the rest of the guys,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “He’s carried the club.”

Thomas’ 35 homers this season also matches the Athletics’ team mark by a designated hitter in one season set by Kingman (1984 and 86) and John Jaha (1999). He has 483 homers.

“He’s just not missing pitches right now,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s hitting everything squarely. He’s just hitting his stride and I don’t think that stride is going to go away.”

Thomas had 30 homers and 75 RBIs in 108 games combined during his previous two injured-marred seasons. He has driven in 97 runs this year, including an AL-best 49 since the All-Star break.

“He’s unbelieveable,” Oakland starter Barry Zito said. “He’s locked in. I think he expects to hit a home run every time.”

Eric Chavez hit a two-run homer and had a tiebreaking RBI double off Shawn Camp (7-3) that made it 7-6 in the seventh. Marco Scutaro gave the Athletics an 8-6 lead on an eighth-inning homer. Dan Johnson added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

“They’re all big … every hit, every home run,” Chavez said.

Oakland started the day 5 1-2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels.

Delmon Young had an RBI triple off Kiko Calero and scored on Carl Crawford’s single against Joe Kennedy (4-0) as the Devil Rays tied it at 6 in the sixth.

Calero faced two batters in relief of Zito, and both scored. Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 31st save.

Zito allowed four runs, eight hits, three walks and had three strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings. The Devil Rays were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position against the left-hander.

The Athletics took a 4-2 lead in the fourth when Thomas and Nick Swisher hit solo homers off Jae Seo. Thomas extended the advantage to 6-2 on a two-run single one inning later.

Seo gave up six runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings.

Chavez’s 18th homer in the second to put the Athletics up 2-1. He has four homers over his last 63 games.

Young put the Devil Rays ahead 1-0 on RBI double in the first. Jorge Cantu tied it at 2 on a second-inning homer, and later cut the deficit to 6-4 with a two-run single in the fifth.

Rocco Baldelli became the 10th Tampa Bay player to hit 10 homers this season with a solo shot in the eighth. The Devil Rays are the eighth team all-time to accomplish the feat.

“The Oakland A’s are a pretty good team right now,” Baldelli said. “This time of year they always play well. They just got the best of us today.”

The Athletics are a major league-best 37-17 since the All-Star break.

Notes

A final decision on whether Tampa Bay LHP Scott Kazmir (sore left shoulder) will be shut down for the rest of season should come soon. “It’s getting to the point where it will happen,” Maddon said. Kazmir ended his first session of playing catch in two weeks on Friday after nine throws because he felt discomfort in the shoulder. … Thomas moved past Billy Williams into 38th place all-time with 949 extra base hits. …Tampa Bay released 1B Travis Lee. … Swisher went 7-for-9 with two walks and two homers during the three-game series.

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