The team with the top record in the majors tries to make it seven straight wins tonight as the Tampa Bay Rays entertain the Oakland Athletics in the second of a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Outside of a four-game slide in the middle of April, the Rays have been almost unbeatable as they currently enjoy a run of 12 wins in 13 tries. Now a game and a half up on the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East, Tampa Bay has been unstoppable at home as well with 13 victories in 14 opportunities.
On Friday night the Rays put up seven runs over the third and fourth innings as they defeated Oakland, 7-2, in the first meeting of the season between the squads. Jose Molina, Luke Scott and B.J. Upton each plated a pair for the hosts while starting pitcher David Price logged his fifth win in six decisions. Price allowed just one run on three hits and struck out a season- high 12 over the course of eight innings.
As for the A's, currently 4 1/2 games out of first in the AL West and a game under .500 overall, they saw a brief two-game win streak come to an end last night as hurler Tyson Ross was shelled for seven runs on nine hits and a pair of walks in just 3 1/3 innings of work. While the bullpen responded by holding Tampa Bay hitless the rest of the way, the damage had already been done.
"I didn't think his command within the strike zone was good today," was how Oakland manager Bob Melvin described the effort by Ross.
Cliff Pennington accounted for one run with a solo home run for the visitors, while Jonny Gomes delivered a pair of hits and scored one as well in the setback.
Shooting for his fourth win of the new season, Bartolo Colon is set to take the ball for the A's this evening in Florida. The right-hander won three of his first four outings of 2012, but since then he hasn't gotten much help from his offense.
Last weekend Colon made it through a season-high 8 1/3 innings versus Baltimore on the road, permitting just two runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out five, but still Oakland suffered a 5-2 loss and the hurler was left without a decision.
For his career, Colon has a record of 9-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 22 games versus Tampa Bay.
As for the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson get the call for the hosts this evening. The Iowa native is off to a strong start to the season with three wins in as many decisions. Already 2-0 at home on the campaign, the right-hander helped the Rays to yet another win on Monday as he allowed just a single run on six hits and struck out seven in as many innings, although he failed to register a decision for his efforts.
Hellickson is making his third appearance all-time against Oakland and is still waiting to notch his first decision versus the A's.
Hellickson might be catching Oakland at just the right time, seeing as how the A's are last in the AL in team batting at .212 and have scored a league-low 84 runs over the course of 27 contests. Against right-handers the A's are batting just .216.
Over the last six games Oakland hitters have shown marginal improvement in overall batting average (.232), but at the same time are striking out almost 10 times per contest.
The Tampa Bay pitching staff has a collective ERA of 3.69, putting them in the middle of the pack in the AL, but when it comes to strikeouts the squad's 215 are second-best in the league.
The Rays, already an impressive 10-1 versus the AL West this season, defeated the A's only twice in seven opportunities all of last year.