Price looks to reclaim the major league lead with his 15th win Monday night in Oakland, where he'll try to keep the A's from clinching the best July in franchise history in the opener of this key three-game set.
Monday marks exactly three months since Evan Longoria last played, and though the third baseman is rehabbing in Triple-A Durham, his return can't come soon enough for a Tampa Bay club that's been held to three or fewer runs in seven of its last eight games.
The Rays (53-49), however, have won three of those seven thanks to a pitching staff that's been brilliant of late. Tampa Bay has given up just 18 runs over its last 10 games, and finished a three-game set in Anaheim with back-to-back shutouts to pull within two games of the Angels for the second wild-card spot.
Oakland is one-half game ahead of Los Angeles.
"They're picking us up right now," Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson said of the pitching staff. "... Eventually we will pick them back up. But that's kind of how the team is built and I think everybody understands that."
The Rays have never gone three straight games without allowing a run, but Price (14-4, 2.57 ERA) figures to give them a solid chance. The left-hander won his third start in a row and sixth consecutive decision Wednesday after striking out 10 over seven innings in a 10-1 victory at Baltimore.
"At the end of the day, it's always about starting pitching," manager Joe Maddon told the team's official website. "I thought David was really sharp tonight."
Price is 7-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his last nine starts against AL opponents, and he certainly had everything going in his last matchup with the A's (55-46). The three-time All-Star fanned a season-high 12 and allowed one run over eight innings in a 7-2 home victory May 4.
The lineup Price will see Monday should have a bit more confidence than the one he shut down three months ago, however. The A's were averaging an AL-low 3.11 runs after that contest, but they've put up a major-league high 6.07 since the All-Star break.
Center fielder Yoenis Cespedes , who was hitting .230 (14 for 61) versus left-handers before the break, is batting .440 (11 for 25) since.
"They have the best starting pitching in the American League and their bullpen is one of the best, as well," Price said. "They throw well, play good defense, and they've got some guys who are stepping up in that lineup right now."
The A's are 18-4 this month after taking two of three in both Toronto and Baltimore, and are just one win shy of clinching the best July in franchise history.
"The way we've been playing, it looks like we've got a chance to win every game," manager Bob Melvin said after Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Orioles. "But boy, any time during the season you can go on the road and take four out of six from two very good teams, we'll take it."
Price has gone exactly seven innings in six of his last seven starts - he went 7 1-3 in the other - and his mound opponent has also been a model of consistency. A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.25) has gone six in all six of his major league outings, with his three-hit, nine-strikeout performance in Wednesday's 16-0 blasting of the Blue Jays his best yet."He mixed his pitches, he did everything as if it was a close game, and that's what you want to see," Melvin said.
Oakland's Coco Crisp , who's hitting .342 in July, missed Sunday's game with a tight hamstring and will be re-evaluated Monday.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 02, 2012||Hideki Matsui||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 30, 2012||Jeremy Hellickson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right shin|
|June 29, 2012||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back tightness|
|June 20, 2012||Matt Joyce||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|July 28, 2012||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left hamstring tightness|
|July 20, 2012||Cliff Pennington||15-Day DL||Left elbow tendinitis|
|June 23, 2012||Collin Cowgill||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|June 23, 2012||Collin Cowgill||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|June 20, 2012||Brandon McCarthy||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|June 18, 2012||Bartolo Colon||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jemile Weeks shook off the worst night of his career and became the latest member of the Athletics to deliver a walkoff victory.
Just another magical night in July for an Oakland team that has been the hottest in the majors since the All-Star break.
Weeks hit a sacrifice fly in the 15th inning and the A's outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Monday night in a game that took more than five hours.
"That's just been the way the game's been going for this team right now," Weeks said after his first career walkoff RBI. "I kind of was beating myself up before because I had some chances and didn't get it done. Another opportunity came, I just stayed confident and it worked out."
The A's improved to 19-4 this month and assured themselves of the best winning percentage in July in franchise history.
They've done it in dramatic fashion, too.
Oakland leads the majors with 12 walkoff wins this season. The A's have won three of their last four games at home in the last at-bat, extending a season-long pattern.
According to information provided by the A's from the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time a team has nine walkoffs wins in 17 home games since the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers .
"This has been an awesome ride, just to be doing what we're doing," said reliever Ryan Cook , who pitched two scoreless innings. "This is exactly where we want to be."
Weeks was 0 for 7 when he came up against the Rays' five-man infield. He lofted a fly ball and Brandon Inge easily beat the throw home from center fielder B.J. Upton.
Inge began the rally with a leadoff single against Kyle Farnsworth (0-3) and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Seth Smith was intentionally walked, and Eric Sogard also walked to load the bases. The Rays then moved right fielder Ben Zobrist to the infield in hopes of getting a double play.
Weeks followed with the sacrifice fly to score Inge, who never hesitated taking off from third.
"I don't care if I got thrown out by 20 feet, I'm taking a chance on that one," Inge said.
Brandon Hicks homered for the A's while Jordan Norberto (3-1) pitched one inning for the win as Oakland improved to 8-2 in extra-inning games this season.
The game lasted 5 hours, 9 minutes and ended at 12:17 a.m.
"It stinks any time you lose a game," Tampa Bay starter David Price said. "It's tough when you play for as long as we did tonight. To not be able to win that game stings a little bit."
The A's won despite striking out an Oakland-record 21 times. Inge had four of them until his leadoff single in the 15th.
Oakland loaded the bases in the ninth and 10th but failed to score. Tampa Bay stranded runners at first and third in the 14th and first and second in the 15th.
Chris Carter and Kurt Suzuki had RBI doubles in the second to give the A's a 2-0 lead against Price.
That ended a franchise record-tying 24-inning scoreless streak by Tampa Bay pitchers that began during the weekend in Anaheim, where the Rays pitched consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2008.
Price, trying to become the majors' first 15-game winner this season, later pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth by striking out Inge before giving up Hicks' game-tying home run in the seventh. He finished with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin didn't allow a hit until the fourth and ran into trouble that same inning after walking Matt Joyce . Two batters later, Carlos Pena tied it with a double into the gap in right-center that scored Jeff Keppinger and Joyce.
Matt Joyce 's 12th homer of the season gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead in the sixth.
NOTES: Oakland optioned C Derek Norris to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for George Kottaras . Kottaras was obtained in a trade from Milwaukee on Sunday. ... The Rays are encouraged by the progress of injured 3B Evan Longoria (partial hamstring tear) but haven't set a timetable for his return. ... RHP Jeff Niemann threw a bullpen session without setback and is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Friday in Tampa Bay. The next step will be at least one rehab start for Niemann. ... Rays RHP James Shields (8-7) will try to bounce back Tuesday from a shaky start when he issued a season-high five walks in 6-2 loss to Baltimore. LHP Tommy Milone (9-7) goes for Oakland.