OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Athletics knew their remarkable run of success during a memorable July would have to end at some point.
Alex Cobb shut down Oakland for seven innings and Carlos Pena homered as the Tampa Bay Rays handed the A's their first back-to-back losses since June with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday.
``We'll grind through it. We haven't lost a series in a while and we have to move forward,' Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. ``We're not going to be perfect and put seven or eight runs on the board every time. We're going through a rough patch. We'll be fine.'
The A's were almost perfect last month, going 19-5 for the best July in franchise history as they bolted back into the AL playoff race behind stellar pitching and late-inning dramatics from the hitters.
All that was missing on Wednesday. Brandon Inge provided the only run with a homer in the fifth and Jarrod Parker allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings.
``I think we all know the game has its ups and downs and we just have to stick with it, keep battling,' Inge said. ``There are plenty of guys here who can pick up the slack. We'll just keep going at it.'
Pena, who drove in five runs in the series, hit an RBI double in the sixth inning and a solo homer in the eighth for the Rays, who won three straight series on one trip for the fourth time in franchise history. The wins over Baltimore, the Angels and A's marked the first time Tampa Bay won three straight road series against winning teams.
``It's pretty spectacular,' manager Joe Maddon said. ``Before the trip everyone is talking 7-2. To me it's always about that night. To win each series is about as good as it gets right now.'
Jeff Keppinger scored twice and Matt Joyce and Ryan Roberts also drove in runs for the Rays, who moved within 1 1/2 games of Oakland for the second wild-card spot in the American League.
Cobb (5-8) followed up James Shields' shutout on Tuesday night with a strong start of his own, settling down after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first. He allowed four hits and one walk, striking out six as the Rays lowered their ERA to 1.70 on the trip.
``It's just a contagious thing,' Cobb said. ``You see one pitcher doing good and you want to match him. You definitely don't want to be that guy to be the weak link in the rotation. As long as we can keep feeding off each other and throw strikes we'll be fine.'
After getting only one run of support while losing his previous three starts, Cobb took the mound with a 1-0 lead thanks to some rare small ball by the Rays. Desmond Jennings led off against Parker (7-5) with a single, advanced to second on B.J. Upton's first sacrifice bunt of the season and scored on a two-out hit by Joyce.
Cobb struck out Brandon Moss with the bases loaded to end the bottom half, starting a run of 10 straight batters that he retired. That was snapped when Inge led off the fifth inning with his 12th homer to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1, but Cobb pitched around a double by Kurt Suzuki to preserve the lead.
``He did a great job of getting strike one, a great job, all day long,' Inge said. ``He was 0-2 on a lot of guys and he made his pitches. He was effective.'
Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 31st save in 32 chances.
Keppinger doubled and scored on a two-out hit by Roberts to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead in the fourth. The Rays were unable to capitalize on another sacrifice bunt by Upton in the fifth when Ben Zobrist hit into a fielder's choice with runners on second and third and Joyce grounded out.
Pena's RBI double in the sixth made it 3-1.
NOTES: A's OF Josh Reddick went 0 for 4 to extend his career-worst hitless streak to 21 at_bats. ... Oakland OF Coco Crisp (left hamstring) has made significant progress and could be back in the lineup soon, Melvin said. ... A's SS Cliff Pennington (left elbow) could begin a rehab assignment Friday. ... The A's open a four-game home series against Toronto on Thursday when Bartolo Colon (7-8) takes the mound against Henderson Alvarez (7-7).
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved