Athletics-Rays Preview


The Tampa Bay Rays are on such a run that their opponents can't help but be impressed.

Looking for a season-high seventh consecutive victory, the Rays can match a club record with their 11th straight home win Saturday night against the Oakland Athletics.

David Price pitched eight strong innings for his fifth win while B.J. Upton, Luke Scott and Jose Molina each had two RBIs in Friday's 7-2 win over Oakland.

Winners in 12 of 13 overall, the Rays have the best record in the majors and their only loss in 14 home games came against Minnesota on April 20. Tampa Bay won 11 straight at Tropicana Field from April 22-May 13, 2008.

"I think they're the hottest team in baseball right now,'' said Tyson Ross, who took the loss for the A's on Friday. "I definitely tip my cap to them.''

Tampa Bay is 4-0 since losing star third baseman Evan Longoria for up to eight weeks with a torn hamstring earlier in the week. Scott has five of his team-leading 21 RBIs during the six-game winning streak, while Upton is batting .350 with 10 RBIs in 12 games this season.

"I'm sure if you look through the annals of baseball that a lot of championship teams will say that it's a different guy that helped us win every night,'' said Joe Maddon, who will manage his 1,000th game with the Rays on Saturday.

Tampa Bay could be in for a serious test against scheduled starter Bartolo Colon (3-2, 2.53 ERA), who has allowed four runs over 30 1-3 innings while going 2-1 in his last four starts.

Colon, who turns 39 on May 24, gave up two runs in 8 1-3 innings but he and the A's bullpen could not hold a 2-0 ninth-inning lead in Sunday's 5-2 loss at Baltimore. He had not allowed a run over 15 innings of his first two road starts this season.

Despite breaking down in the ninth, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter remains impressed with Colon's early success.

"He's got such a strong hand, such strong fingers," Showalter told the Athletics' official website. "He's got like four different pitches. He's tough."

The right-hander is 9-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 22 starts against the Rays, but 0-4 with a 6.10 ERA in his last six since beating them April 26, 2007, while with the Angels.

Tampa Bay turns to Jeremy Hellickson (3-0, 2.51), who has allowed a pair of solo homers and nine other hits in 13 innings of his last two starts. The right-hander struck out seven without a walk in seven innings of a 3-2, 12-inning win over Seattle on Monday.

Hellickson has a 4.76 ERA without a decision in two starts versus Oakland.

Former Ray Jonny Gomes had two of Oakland's five hits and Cliff Pennington added a ninth-inning homer Friday as the A's (13-14) lost for the fourth time in six games.

"Based on the facts, we haven't swung the bats great (and) our record's not horrible for that,'' manager Bob Melvin said. "We do expect to swing the bats better than we have to this point.''

Pennington, batting .400 (8 for 20) in the last five games, is 3 for 4 with a double and home run versus Hellickson.