ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Pat Burrell and Reid Brignac homered Tuesday night, helping the Tampa Bay Rays match a club record for wins in April with an 8-6 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
The AL East leaders improved baseball's best record to 15-5. The victory total equals the number they had in the opening month two years ago, when they made a surprising run to the World Series.
Burrell's three-run homer off Ben Sheets (1-2) snapped a 4-4 tie in the third inning. Brignac's solo shot leading off the bottom of the fourth gave right-hander Wade Davis (2-1) an 8-4 lead.
The Rays have won 12 of 14 and are off to the best start in the team's 13-season history. Nevertheless, attendance for the opener of a two-game series against another first-place team drew an announced crowd of 10,825 to Tropicana Field.
Davis weathered a shaky five innings to win his second straight decision. He gave up a three-run homer to Cliff Pennington, who had four hits and four RBI's — both career highs — for the A's.
Pennington's RBI double off Lance Cormier trimmed Oakland's deficit to 8-5 in the sixth. Adam Rosales drove in a run with his career-best fourth hit — making it 8-6 in the eighth — however the A's stranded the potential tying runs in scoring position when Daric Barton struck out.
Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth for Tampa Bay, earning his fifth save in five opportunities.
The Rays played without catcher Dioner Navarro, who began serving a two-game suspension for bumping an umpire during an argument last week. He also will sit out Wednesday's finale against the A's.
Jason Bartlett's two-run single was the biggest blow in Tampa Bay's four-run second inning against Sheets, who allowed eight runs and nine hits in four innings. Carlos Pena and John Jaso, filling in for Navarro, also drove in runs in the inning.
Davis, however, couldn't hold the early lead.
The A's struck for four runs of their own in the third, with Pennington's third homer of the season doing most of the damage. The A's went on to load the bases with two outs on a walk and pair of singles before Gabe Gross lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-4.
Burrell, who's 8-for-19 with three homers lifetime against Sheets, put Tampa Bay ahead for good. Brignac's homer leading off the fourth inning restored a four-run lead for Davis, who yielded four runs and seven hits.
Notes: Pennington is 6-for-24 on the road, and three of the hits have been home runs. ... LF Eric Patterson's second-inning throwing error snapped Oakland's season-high streak of six consecutive games without an error. ... Rays LHP J.P. Howell, who's on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left shoulder, is set to make 25 to 30 "nice and easy" throws off a mound on Wednesday. ... Oakland C Kurt Suzuki missed his third straight game with soreness in his left side. ... Barton was in the lineup at first base for the A's, despite a small fracture of his right middle finger. He was hurt Sunday sliding into the dugout to make a catch.