The Tampa Bay Rays have cooled off the Oakland Athletics and continue to build some much-needed momentum at the same time.
Looking to complete a three-game sweep, the Rays try to prevent Oakland's Tommy Milone from starting 4-0 on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (7-10) has bounced back nicely from a 2-7 road trip by winning the first two of a weekend set versus Oakland (12-6), which carried a three-game winning streak into the series and was 6-0 on the road.
The Rays have not swept a three-game set from the A's at home since 2005.
One night after matching a season high for runs in an 8-3 win, the Rays got seven strong innings from Jeremy Hellickson and a homer by Matt Joyce during Saturday's 1-0 win. All three Oakland hits came off Hellickson, who struck out six and walked one.
"We're going to take a win any way we can get it,' Joyce said.
"To know you can pitch play defense well enough to make one run stand, it's a good confidence builder.'
To help his team unwind and relax, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon brought a disc jockey into the clubhouse to provide some pregame entertainment.
"I want our guys to chill out a little bit, go out there and play hard and not be afraid of making mistakes - ever,' Maddon said. "This is my way of getting the point across.'
Joyce is batting .316 (6 for 19) in his last five games after going 4 for 30 (.133) in his first 10.
Teammate Evan Longoria did not homer, but had a hit and has reached base safely in all 17 games.
Longoria has never faced Milone (3-0, 3.86 ERA), who allowed two runs and struck out six in 6 2-3 innings of an 11-2 win over Houston on Monday to improve to 5-0 with a 3.11 ERA in his last eight regular-season starts.
"You pretty much know what you're going to get out of Tommy every time he goes out there,' Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He works quick, he knows what he wants to do and has conviction in what he's doing. Since the day he's gotten here his first spring training he's been a model of consistency.'
Though the left-hander split his two appearances against the Rays last season, he posted an 8.18 ERA in those starts.
The A's averaged 8.5 runs and 12.7 hits while sweeping Houston and the Los Angeles Angels in their first road trip, but did not have a hit past the fourth inning Saturday.
Coco Crisp went 0 for 4 to snap his 12-game hitting streak, but he's 9 for 22 (.409) with a double and home run against scheduled Tampa Bay starter Roberto Hernandez (0-3, 5.79).
The right-hander allowed five runs - three earned - and walked three while striking out seven in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss at Baltimore on Tuesday.
Formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Hernandez is 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts versus Oakland.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved