(Sports Network) - The American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays are on a
roll and will shoot for a sixth straight win tonight versus the Oakland
Athletics in the opener of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay is 1 1/2 games ahead of surprising Baltimore and just swept the
Seattle Mariners in four games to kick off a seven-game homestand. In
Thursday's 4-3 victory in the series finale, Jeff Keppinger hit a two-run
homer and Desmond Jennings added a two-run triple to lead the way.
"Keppinger's homer was big, obviously, in that moment," Rays manager Joe
Maddon said of the blast during a four-run second inning. "That got us going
in the right direction."
Rays starter Jeff Niemann picked up the win despite allowing three runs on
seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings, while Fernando Rodney worked around
an error in the ninth inning to earn his ninth save.
The Rays have won 11 of their last 12 games and are a sizzling 12-1 at the
Trop this season.
David Price was able to keep Texas' powerful lineup in check his last time out
and will try to pitch the Rays into the win column again Friday. Price posted
his third consecutive winning start in a 5-2 triumph in the Lone Star State on
Sunday, as he allowed two runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He also struck
out six batters for a second straight outing.
Price improved to 4-1 in five starts to go along with a 2.67 ERA and will put
his unblemished home record on the line. The lefty is 2-0 with a solid 1.17
ERA in two trips to the Tropicana Field hill this season. In four career
starts against the Athletics, Price is 1-1 with a 4.44 earned run average.
Oakland is 3-3 so far on a nine-game road trip and took the last two meetings
of a three-game set in Boston.
The Athletics are coming off Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the Red Sox in which
Seth Smith drove in a pair of runs and Brandon McCarthy tossed 6 2/3 solid
innings. McCarthy allowed just one run on five hits with four strikeouts and
three walks for his second straight win. Brian Fuentes nailed down his first
save of the season in place of Grant Balfour.
"I felt like I was able to throw a lot of strikes and my command was solid,"
The A's have won two in a row since a three-game slide and are 7-6 as the
guest this season.
Tyson Ross is getting acclimated to a starter's role and will get the nod for
Oakland this evening. Ross will try to forget his last outing, a 10-1 loss at
Baltimore on Saturday. He was hammered for nine runs and 11 hits in four
innings to fall to 1-1 in three starts to go along with a 6.48 ERA.
Ross, a right-hander, is 0-1 in two starts this season and faced Tampa Bay
once in a relief appearance.
Oakland won five of seven matchups with Tampa Bay a season ago.
The Sports Network