St. Petersburg, FL – Chris Carter hit a two-run homer in a three-run first inning, as the Oakland Athletics took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, in the rubber match of a three-game series from Tropicana Field.
Seth Smith added a solo shot for the Athletics, who took the final two games in the set and have won eight of 10 overall. Oakland, which has outperformed the Angels to compete with Texas for the AL West crown, reached a season-high 12 games over .500 on Saturday.
Brandon McCarthy (7-5) allowed four hits and a pair of runs with seven strikeouts and two walks over seven innings for the win. Grant Balfour tossed a scoreless ninth for his 14th save.
"I thought we played great. We pitched and we had timely hitting. We played defense. That's all we can ask for," Balfour said.
Desmond Jennings went deep for the Rays, who have lost three of five.
Jeremy Hellickson (8-9) departed after five frames, charged in the loss for four runs and six hits.
Hellickson struggled through a long opening inning, falling behind by three. Coco Crisp hit a leadoff double and Stephen Drew moved him up with an infield hit. With Drew attempting to swipe second, Jose Lobaton's wild throw allowed Crisp to score and Drew to land at third.
"I wasn't throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes," Hellickson said.
One batter later, Carter launched his 11th homer of the season to left and Oakland led 3-0.
Luke Scott began the home second with a bunt single, Ryan Roberts moved him to third on a base hit and Lobaton's fly to left brought in Tampa's first run.
Smith took it back with a leadoff homer in the third, but Jennings reached the seats in left with one down in the fifth to make it a 4-2 game.
McCarthy brushed aside a one-out double from Ben Zobrist in the sixth, then ended his outing by retiring the side in order in the seventh.
Oakland won five of the nine games in the season series ... McCarthy hadn't worked seven innings since a 3-0 win over the Dodgers on June 19 ... Crisp and Josh Reddick each finished with three hits.