(SportsNetwork.com) - The four-game series between the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays concludes Sunday at Tropicana Field as the Rays look to create some distance from themselves and the competition in the American League East standings.
The Rays are 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees, three games in front of the Baltimore Orioles and 3 1/2 games clear of the Boston Red Sox for the AL East lead.
Erasmo Ramirez gets the starting nod for the host Rays, but he'll have a tall mountain to climb as he goes up against A's talented youngster Sonny Gray.
The 25-year-old Gray, who ended the 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record and a 3.08 earned run average, was off to a hot start before he suffered two very tough losses in his most recent outings. Still, he enters the contest Sunday with a 4-2 record and a 1.92 ERA.
Gray's latest two starts have both resulted in defeats, but neither were his fault. Against Boston on May 13, Gray allowed just one run in seven innings in a 2-0 Red Sox victory. Then he surrendered three runs and seven hits in five innings of work Tuesday in a 6-4 Houston win over the A's. He's up to 61 innings pitched this season.
In three career starts versus the Rays, Gray is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA and 13 strikeouts.
Ramirez lost his first start of the season back on April 15, then proceeded to make seven straight appearances without a decision. But the 25-year-old righty has won each of his last two outings, most recently on Tuesday in a five- inning, three-run stint against Atlanta.
The two consecutive wins have pushed Ramirez's record to 2-1 on the season, but he's trying to tame a 6.44 ERA. In seven games against the Athletics, including six starts, Ramirez is a dismal 0-5 with a 4.83 ERA with 17 runs allowed in 31 2/3 innings of work.
Saturday afternoon's contest between the sides belonged solely to Oakland and starting pitcher Kendall Graveman. The 24-year-old starter earned his second win of the season in a dominant performance en route to the 5-0 Athletics victory.
Graveman lasted six innings in his fifth start of the season, not allowing a single run on just three hits to the Rays. He added six strikeouts.
"I located the fastball well, had good movement and I changed speeds when I needed to," Graveman said. "The defense played great behind me tonight so there wasn't much more I could have asked for."
Nathan Karns was hit with the loss as the Rays starter gave up seven hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Oakland got on the board in the sixth inning, as Eric Sogard singled to center to drive in Josh Reddick. Sam Fuld drove in a pair of RBI later in the inning on a single, and a third run came across after several errors on Tampa's part.
Sogard and Reddick had a pair of hits to lead the A's, while Fuld's two RBI were the most in the contest. David DeJesus led Tampa Bay with two hits in the loss.
The victory for Oakland ended the team's four-game losing streak.