Winners of three of their last four outings, the Oakland Athletics try to keep in their sights first place in the American League West, or at the very least their hopes of a wild card berth in the playoffs. The A's, now six games out of first in the division, attempt to even their road record on the campaign as they tangle with the Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a three-game.
With the Republican National Convention ready to take over Tropicana Field on Sunday, the teams had to bump up their series in order to clear out of town before politicians began descending on their territory. On Friday night the A's held on for a 5-4 victory in order to move to 29-30 on the road in 2012 and capture their seventh win in the last 10 tries overall.
Designated hitter Jonny Gomes, a former member of the Rays, knocked in a pair for Oakland, belting his 15th home run of the season with a two-run shot in the eighth, while Chris Carter crossed the plate two times and Josh Donaldson added a couple of hits in the victory.
"He did what he's supposed to do," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Gomes. "I've always had a lot of respect for Jon Gomes, I've talked about that for years. He's a good baseball player. The guy cares and he beat us tonight. He beat us against a guy with an equally big heart in Joel Peralta."
Oakland starter Jarrod Parker made it through six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and a couple of walks, striking out seven, but he was not around long enough to earn the decision. Instead, the win went to Ryan Cook, who struck out four over 1 2/3 innings of relief, while Grant Balfour notched his 13th save of the season.
Peralta was saddled with the loss, his sixth in seven decisions this season, as he allowed a couple of late runs on two hits in just one inning of work. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore permitted three runs on seven hits, fanning seven, in his 6 1/3 innings.
Ben Zobrist finished with two hits and a couple of runs scored as he delivered a triple and his 15th home run of the season. B.J. Upton tallied a couple of hits as well for a Rays lineup that struck out a total of 12 times as they dropped 3 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.
An up-and-down season has Oakland hurler Brandon McCarthy trying to snap a two-game slide when he takes the hill in Florida this afternoon. McCarthy began 2012 with three straight defeats before rattling off six consecutive victories, but is again trying to break out of a losing run, having dropped back-to-back decisions.
Five days ago the right-hander made it through just 3 1/3 innings against Minnesota at home, knocked around for six runs on 10 hits and a walk, his team heading to a 7-2 loss.
McCarthy is making his 10th career appearance against Tampa Bay and already has a 3-2 mark with a 2.98 ERA to show for his efforts versus the Rays.
Countering for the hosts will be Jeremy Hellickson, a right-hander hailing from Iowa who has yet to record a decision in his career against the A's, even though this will be his fourth all-time appearances against the club.
Hellickson, who gave up three runs on five hits and three walks in an earlier outing against Oakland this year, has alternated wins and losses over his last five games and is coming off a victory against Kansas City earlier this week.
While evening his season record at 8-8, Hellickson allowed just a single run on six hits and a walk, striking out six through seven innings in what turned into a 5-1 triumph over KC at home.
Outside of Seattle, Oakland and Tampa Bay are the two teams in the AL with the worst slugging percentage entering play on Saturday. The A's are carrying with them a mark of .386 in that department and the Rays are sitting at .380. However, from a pitching perspective these two clubs are the best in the business with Tampa Bay sporting an ERA of 3.25 to lead the league and Oakland putting up a 3.50 to place second.
Oakland, which won the series last season with five wins in seven opportunities, knotted the 2012 edition at four games apiece with last night's triumph, snapping a three-game slide against the Rays in the process.