Rays-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

Kurt Suzuki enjoyed a triumphant return to Oakland, helping the Athletics continue their recent run of clutch hitting in the series opener.

Now they'll try to keep it going against a hurler who has had their number as of late.

The A's look to build upon their AL wild-card lead with their fifth win in six games Saturday night when they face Alex Cobb and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

Suzuki hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning off David Price, and Jed Lowrie added the go-ahead double against reliever Joel Peralta in the eighth as Oakland (76-58) dealt Price his first loss since July 12 with Friday's 4-3 victory.

Suzuki, who played for the A's from 2007-12, went 2 for 3 in his first game back at the Coliseum since being acquired from Washington on Aug. 23. He has five hits and four RBIs in his last two overall.

"Just being around the guys, I've played with the majority of the guys in this locker room last year or years before," Suzuki said. "It just seems like I never left.''

Lowrie is batting .400 over a 12-game hitting streak and has an Oakland-record 13 doubles this month, while Josh Donaldson added two hits Friday and is 9 for 23 over a six-game hitting streak.

The A's have averaged 7.6 runs and batted .341 - including .377 with runners in scoring position - in winning four of five to take a one-half game lead over Tampa Bay (75-58) for the top wild-card spot. They also pulled within two games of first-place Texas in the AL West.

The Rays will attempt to regain the wild-card edge and potentially reduce their 3 1/2-game deficit to Boston in the East by giving the ball to Cobb (8-2, 2.87 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three starts since missing two months after taking a line drive off the side of his head on June 15.

While the right-hander has fanned 16 in those outings, he's also walked nine over 16 2-3 innings.

"I definitely think it has been a gradual return in performance as far as me feeling comfortable in locating the fastball and mixing in pitches," Cobb told the team's official website.

Cobb, however, has won three straight versus the A's, posting a 1.54 ERA. He gave up three runs over 7 1-3 innings of an 8-3 win on April 19 but matched a season high by allowing 10 hits.

Lowrie equaled a career high by going 4 for 4 in that contest, while Coco Crisp - 5 for 11 lifetime versus Cobb - homered.

Alberto Callaspo (0 for 10), Seth Smith (1 for 9) and Yoenis Cespedes (1 for 7), though, haven't fared as well against him.

The A's counter with rookie right-hander Sonny Gray (1-2, 3.18), who hopes to regroup following his worst start.

Vying to become the first pitcher since Wayne Simpson in 1970 to begin his career with four consecutive starts of six innings while giving up four or fewer hits, the 2011 first-round pick allowed six runs and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings in a 10-3 loss at Baltimore on Sunday.

Gray looks to get back on track against a Tampa Bay team hitting .218 with 15 runs scored while dropping five of six.

Evan Longoria (1 for 19), Desmond Jennings (2 for 27) and Wil Myers (0 for 19) are among those Rays mired in slumps, though Ben Zobrist is batting .370 during a seven-game hitting streak versus Oakland.

What to Read Next