The team with the most wins in all of baseball again shoots for number 20 this afternoon when the Tampa Bay Rays close out a three- game set against the Oakland Athletics at Tropicana Field.
Winners of six in a row entering play on Saturday, the Rays tried to put some more distance between themselves and the rest of the American League East as they took the field in what was Joe Maddon's 1,000th game as manager. Unfortunately, the hosts were taken to extra innings by Oakland and ended up suffering the 4-3 loss.
After making a leaping catch against the wall in the 10th inning to keep hope alive, A's left fielder Jonny Gomes belted a solo home run in the top of the 12th which proved to be the game-winner for the visitors. Josh Reddick delivered a home run of his own for Oakland, plating a pair of runs as the team won for the third time in four tries. Daric Barton added three hits, a walk and a run scored.
Oakland starter Bartolo Colon gave up three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks, striking out two, in five innings of action, while Brian Fuentes was credited with the win and Grant Balfour notched his seventh save of the campaign.
Elliot Johnson, Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist each stroked solo home runs for a Tampa Bay squad which is now just a half game ahead of surprising Baltimore for first place in the AL East. Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was chased after 3 2/3 innings as he permitted three runs on five hits and three walks. Joel Peralta, the seventh pitcher used by the hosts, was charged with the loss, his first of the season.
"My fastball command just wasn't there," said Hellickson after only 59 of his 102 pitches went for strikes. "I felt fine, but I just had a tough time being consistent with the fastball."
Heading to the hill for the hosts this afternoon will be Matt Moore as he tries to follow up his first win of the season on Tuesday against Seattle. Mariners batters produced seven hits in five innings against the left-hander, but only one run as Moore struck out a season-best seven.
The Florida native is in just his second year in the majors and is making his first-ever appearance against Oakland today.
As for the A's, they too have a youngster toeing the rubber this time around in second-year man Tommy Milone. The 25-year old left-hander had won back-to- back outings heading into the week but then ran into a resurgent Boston squad at Fenway Park.
Against the Red Sox Milone was tagged for seven earned runs on eight hits, striking out five, in just 4 2/3 innings of work as he suffered his second loss of the campaign. Milone, who was on the Washington staff last season, is making his first-ever appearance against the Rays.
Oakland, which is 8-7 on the road at the moment, is sitting in second place in the AL West just 4 1/2 games off the pace even though the club is a mere 14-14 on the year. Holding the squad back is a collective batting average of just .211 which is by far the weakest in the AL and last among all 30 teams in the majors. Add to that an on-base percentage (.281) and slugging (.331) that are also last in the majors and it is surprising that the A's can remain competitive.
Maddon is now the fifth manager in the modern era to manage at least 1,000 games for one team without ever playing in the majors. The others are Earl Weaver (Orioles), Joe McCarthy (Yankees), Jim Leyland (Pirates) and Danny Ozark (Phillies). Maddon also joined Mike Scioscia (Angels), Ron Gardenhire (Twins) and Charlie Manuel (Phillies) as the only managers with at least 1,000 games with their current teams.