A's turn to streaking Milone hoping to avoid getting swept by Rays

A fast start to the season has Oakland's Tommy Milone riding a five-decision winning streak.

Tampa Bay hurler Roberto Hernandez is still looking for his first victory since 2011.

The two hurlers square off on Sunday afternoon when the Athletics try to avoid getting swept in a three-game series by the Rays for the first time since 2005.

The 26-year-old Milone has not lost since Sept. 3, finishing off his 13-win campaign with another two victories before season's end. He has been solid to begin 2013, pitching to a 3.86 earned run average in winning each of his first three starts.

Run support has helped. Oakland has plated 28 runs over his three starts, including back-to-back 11-run outbursts. That was more than enough for the left-hander to beat the Houston Astros on Monday as he held the club to a pair of runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out six without a walk.

"He's not going to beat himself. He's going to make his defenders work. He works quick ... He's been the model of consistency," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

It has been Milone that has hard to work in two previous starts versus the Rays. He has split two decisions, but has an 8.18 ERA over the outings after allowing 10 runs over 11 innings.

Those are numbers comparable to Hernandez's season so far. The 32-year-old is 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA through three starts, having allowed 15 runs (12 earned) over 18 2/3 innings.

Hernandez also lost all three of his starts with the Cleveland Indians last year before joining the Rays as a free agent, leaving him without a victory since Sept. 20, 2011.

The righty dropped his latest decision on Tuesday versus the Baltimore Orioles, allowing five runs -- three earned -- on five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. He did strike out seven, giving him 18 on the season.

In 13 career meetings with the A's, all but one of those starts, Hernandez is 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA. A victory in this game would give the Rays their first sweep of the Athletics since May 24-26, 2005 in Tampa.

The Rays had lost eight of 10 before taking Friday's opener 8-3, then followed up with a tight 1-0 triumph on Saturday. Jeremy Hellickson won a pitcher's duel with Oakland's Jarrod Parker, hurling seven scoreless innings of three- hit ball. Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney added a perfect frame of relief each, with Rodney picking up his second save of the season.

Tampa Bay won back-to-back games for only the second time this season thanks to Hellickson, whose three hits allowed were all singles. The Rays offense had just six hits, but one was a solo homer by Matt Joyce in the second inning.

"For us to go out and score one run, and have the pitching staff hold them to nothing is outstanding," Joyce said.

That mistake was enough to drop Parker to 0-3 on the season despite the young hurler lasting a season-high 6 1/3 innings.

"He used all his pitches and I think he's getting on a roll and getting his confidence going," Melvin said of Parker.

Oakland had won 12 of 14 coming into this set and was 6-0 on the road.

Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria went 1-for-3 on Saturday and has reached base in each of his club's first 17 games of the season. He is batting .283 with four homers and nine RBI and has a hit in seven straight.

Oakland was 5-4 against the Rays last season.