The Oakland Athletics have the best record in the AL, and success on their upcoming trip could only reinforce their status as one of the league's top teams.
Off to their best road start in 23 seasons, the A's look to remain perfect away from home by continuing their recent success at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
Since opening with two straight losses, Oakland (12-4) has lost twice in 14 contests and is coming off a three-game sweep of the lowly Astros. The A's, who also swept series at Houston and the Los Angeles Angels , have not won their first seven road contests since opening 8-0 in 1990.
Oakland hit .326 and clubbed 13 of its 20 home runs while outscoring the Astros and Angels 51-20 on the trek. Manager Bob Melvin , however, expects his team's six-game trip to Tampa and Boston to be a stiffer task considering the Rays (5-10) should be eager to return from a 2-7 trip and the streaking Red Sox lead the AL East.
"It's our first trip out east, which always presents its challenges," Melvin told the Athletics' official website.
The A's should be a confident group at least in Tampa, where they've won six of nine while winning three straight series.
Oakland leads the majors with 96 runs and ranks near the top with a .354 on-base percentage while slugging .464."The offense is off the charts at this point," Melvin said. "We're hitting on all cylinders."
Smith is hitting .447 (17 of 38) in 2013, but went 2 for 21 with six strikeouts against the Rays last season.
Scheduled Oakland starter Brett Anderson (1-2, 4.34 ERA) is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts versus Tampa Bay, but he gave up seven runs, eight hits, including three homers, and three walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday.
"I never really got into a rhythm," said the left-hander, who yielded two runs in each of his first two starts.
Tampa Bay blew a 3-0 led at Baltimore on Thursday and lost 10-6 in 10 innings on Matt Wieters ' grand slam off Brandon Gomes . Evan Longoria hit one of four homers for the Rays, who have dropped eight of 10."I'm not worried about either side, pitching or hitting," Gomes said. "This is a very talented team and we're going to be fine. We're going to hit our stride, everything's going to click and we're going to win a lot of ballgames."
The Rays hand the ball to Alex Cobb (1-1, 1.93), who is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA against the A's.
Cobb gave up four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-0 win over Cleveland in his 2013 debut, but gave up four runs and seven hits while throwing 106 pitches in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Boston on Sunday.
"I think in years past, I might have let things get away a little bit, kind of caved under the pressure, versus this year, I took the pressure head on," the right-hander told the Rays' official website. "I kind of told myself not to let this happen. Not to let those games that happened in the past happen."
Three of Longoria's four hits in his last 17 at-bats have left the park. He's 2 for 8 with a homer against Anderson.
The A's reinstated first baseman Brandon Moss from the paternity list hours before this game. Moss was batting .283 with 13 RBIs in 13 games when he was placed on the list Tuesday for the birth of his second son, Brody.
|April 13, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||15-Day DL||Strained muscle, left hand|
|April 12, 2013||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Strained left groin|
|April 10, 2013||Scott Sizemore||15-Day DL||Torn left ACL - out for season|
|April 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||Day-to-Day||Sprained right wrist|
|March 27, 2013||Hiroyuki Nakajima||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|March 26, 2013||Adam Rosales||15-Day DL||Strained left intercostal|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|March 31, 2013||Juan Carlos Oviedo||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 28, 2013||Jeff Niemann||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|March 24, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Rays are finally showing signs of heating up offensively.
Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer and Ben Zobrist had a pair of RBI singles to pace a 10-hit attack that carried the struggling team to an 8-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
A night after slugging four solo home runs in a 10-inning loss that concluded a 2-7 road trip, the Rays matched a season-high for runs, with much of the production coming from unlikely sources.
"It's still not there. We still need to improve in certain areas, but it's wins like this that can get you going in the right direction," manager Joe Maddon said after his team won for just just the third time in 11 games. "It's all about confidence."
Jose Lobaton also drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single to back the pitching of Alex Cobb (2-1), who allowed three runs and 10 hits over 7 1-3 innings.
Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie , who went 4 for 4, had run-scoring singles off Cobb in the first for the A's. Starting pitcher Brett Anderson (1-3) left with an ankle injury after Tampa Bay scored four times in the bottom half of the inning.
"It's pretty sore, a little swollen. It's kind of early to tell the severity of it," said Anderson, who was hurt on his next-to-next pitch. "It's kind of depressing. I just landed and felt not great. ... I don't know if my heel hit too hard and kind of jarred something there or what. Just landed a little wrong."
Oakland's Coco Crisp extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning double and added a solo homer off Cobb in the seventh.
The A's loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth before Fernando Rodney - in a non-save situation - struck out John Jaso and got Seth Smith to ground into a game-ending double play.
"You always want to keep grinding and try to get the closer in the game, which we did, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He threw some pitches. We had him on the ropes, but he got out of it. It's kind of who we are and try to be is not go down quietly."
Longoria homered for the fourth time in five games and has reached base safely in each of the Rays' 16 games. Only two players in franchise history have had longer streaks to begin a season - Rocco Baldelli (24 in 2003) and Jorge Cantu (20 in 2005).
The Tampa Bay star went deep in the fourth inning off Evan Scribner , who allowed an RBI single to Ryan Roberts in the third and Zobrist earlier in the fourth.
Before Lobaton's hit made it 4-2, the Rays had gone 0 for 12 with the bases loaded this season. Four of Tampa Bay's first five runs were driven in by the bottom half of the batting order, with the switch-hitting Lobaton and Roberts each picking up their first RBIs of the year.
"We had a good look about us," Maddon said. "I've talked about us needing to get more productivity up and down the lineup."
The A's said a sprained right ankle forced Anderson's departure after allowing four runs, four hits and two walks during a 36-pitch first inning.
Oakland, which had won three straight, scored twice in the first before a baserunning mistake cost them a chance for an even bigger inning. Moss was tagged out in a rundown between first and second base on his RBI single, helping Cobb escape the jam and settle in after a shaky start. The A's didn't have another man reach base until Lowrie singled leading off the fourth.
Lowrie, who's batting .413, ended Cobb's night with a one-out double in the eighth.
"He's been as about as consistent as you can be," Melvin said. "Up over .400 now at this time of year is pretty good."
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed to remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. ... Lobaton's two-run single snapped Tampa Bay's string of 14 consecutive at-bats without a hit with the bases-loaded, a stretch that began last Sept. 21. ... Oakland OF Yoenis Cespedes (strained left hand muscle) is playing catch but hasn't resumed swinging a bat. "The swelling is down, the range of motion is getting better each and every day," manager Bob Melvin said. ... Oakland INF Hiro Nakajima (strained left hamstring) will join the Athletics' extended spring training team on Monday. ... Oakland INF Adam Rosales (strained left intercostal muscle) is expected to remain on a minor league rehab through the middle of next week. ... The A's reinstated Moss from the paternity list and optioned OF-INF Shane Peterson to Triple-A Sacramento. Moss had two hits off Cobb.