ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Frank Thomas has been making the most of his at-bats.
"I'm not trying to hit home runs," Thomas said. "I want good at-bats and hit the ball hard. Now is the time to step on the gas. We have a special chance, and you don't want to waste any at-bats or opportunties."
Thomas has homered in five straight games three times in his career. It was the first since May 24-29, 1994. He tied the franchise record for homers in consecutive games held by George Alusik (1962), Dave Kingman (1986) and Matt Stairs (1998).
"He's a tremendous example to the rest of the guys," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "He's carried the club."
Thomas' 35 homers this season also matches the Athletics' team mark by a designated hitter in one season set by Kingman (1984 and 86) and John Jaha (1999). He has 483 homers.
"He's just not missing pitches right now," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He's hitting everything squarely. He's just hitting his stride and I don't think that stride is going to go away."
Thomas had 30 homers and 75 RBI in 108 games combined during his previous two injured-marred seasons. He has driven in 97 runs this year, including an AL-best 49 since the All-Star break.
"He's unbelieveable," Oakland starter Barry Zito said. "He's locked in. I think he expects to hit a home run every time."
Eric Chavez hit a two-run homer and had a tiebreaking RBI double off Shawn Camp (7-3) that made it 7-6 in the seventh. Marco Scutaro gave the Athletics an 8-6 lead on an eighth-inning homer. Dan Johnson added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
"They're all big ... every hit, every home run," Chavez said.
Oakland started the day 5½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels.
Delmon Young had an RBI triple off Kiko Calero and scored on Carl Crawford's single against Joe Kennedy (4-0) as the Devil Rays tied it at six in the sixth.
Calero faced two batters in relief of Zito, and both scored. Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 31st save.
Zito allowed four runs, eight hits, three walks and had three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The Devil Rays were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position against the left-hander.
The Athletics took a 4-2 lead in the fourth when Thomas and Nick Swisher hit solo homers off Jae Seo. Thomas extended the advantage to 6-2 on a two-run single one inning later.
Seo gave up six runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Chavez's 18th homer in the second to put the Athletics up 2-1. He has four homers over his last 63 games.
Young put the Devil Rays ahead 1-0 on RBI double in the first. Jorge Cantu tied it at two on a second-inning homer, and later cut the deficit to 6-4 with a two-run single in the fifth.
Rocco Baldelli became the 10th Tampa Bay player to hit 10 homers this season with a solo shot in the eighth. The Devil Rays are the eighth team all-time to accomplish the feat.
"The Oakland A's are a pretty good team right now," Baldelli said. "This time of year they always play well. They just got the best of us today."
The Athletics are a major league-best 37-17 since the All-Star break.
|Frank Thomas slams home run No. 35 in the fourth, tying a team record for designated hitters. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Jason Kendall, C||5||0||0||0||1||1||5|
|Mark Ellis, 2B||5||1||2||0||0||1||0|
|Milton Bradley, RF||4||1||2||0||1||0||1|
|Frank Thomas, DH||3||2||3||3||2||0||1|
|Antonio Perez, PR-DH||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Eric Chavez, 3B||5||1||2||3||0||1||3|
|Jay Payton, CF||5||0||2||0||0||0||4|
|Nick Swisher, LF||3||1||2||1||2||1||0|
|Dan Johnson, 1B||4||0||0||1||0||1||4|
|Marco Scutaro, SS||4||2||2||1||1||1||1|
|2B - Mark Ellis (, Seo), Milton Bradley (, Seo), Eric Chavez (, Camp), Nick Swisher (, Switzer)|
|HR - Frank Thomas (, Seo), Eric Chavez (, Seo), Nick Swisher (, Seo), Marco Scutaro (, Camp)|
|SF - Dan Johnson ()|
|RBI - Frank Thomas 3 (), Eric Chavez 3 (), Nick Swisher (), Dan Johnson (), Marco Scutaro ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Nick Swisher ()|
|CS - Jason Kendall (, 2nd base by R. Lugo/Paul), Jay Payton (, 2nd base by Seo/Paul)|
|PK - Milton Bradley (, Seo)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Johnson-Scutaro|
|Joe Kennedy (BS,; W,-)||1.1||1||0||0||1||3||0|
|Justin Duchscherer (H,)||1||1||1||1||0||1||1|
|Huston Street (S,)||1||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Pitches-Strikes - Barry Zito 99-66, Kiko Calero 5-3, Joe Kennedy 21-13, Justin Duchscherer 15-11, Huston Street 14-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Barry Zito 6-7, Joe Kennedy 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Barry Zito 27, Kiko Calero 2, Joe Kennedy 6, Justin Duchscherer 4, Huston Street 4|
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Rocco Baldelli, CF||5||3||3||1||0||0||1|
|Delmon Young, RF||5||2||3||2||0||0||0|
|Carl Crawford, LF||5||1||2||1||0||2||1|
|Greg Norton, DH||4||0||1||0||1||1||2|
|Ty Wigginton, 1B||3||0||0||0||2||1||5|
|Jorge Cantu, 2B||5||1||3||3||0||1||2|
|Josh Paul, C||3||0||1||0||1||1||3|
|a- Kevin Witt, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|B.J. Upton, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||3|
|Tomas Perez, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||4|
|b- Ben Zobrist, PH-SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|a-lined out for Paul in the 9th|
|b-lined out for T. Perez in the 8th|
|2B - Delmon Young (, Zito)|
|3B - Rocco Baldelli (, Zito), Delmon Young (, Calero)|
|HR - Rocco Baldelli (, Duchscherer), Jorge Cantu (, Zito)|
|RBI - Rocco Baldelli (), Delmon Young 2 (), Carl Crawford (), Jorge Cantu 3 ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Delmon Young (), Carl Crawford (), Jorge Cantu 2 ()|
|SB - Carl Crawford (, 2nd base off Zito/Kendall)|
|CS - B.J. Upton (, 2nd base by Zito/Kendall)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Paul-T. Perez|
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Shawn Camp (L,-)||1.1||4||2||2||1||3||1|
|IBB - Swisher by Shawn Camp|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jae Seo 81-51, Jon Switzer 14-11, Shawn Camp 34-21, Ruddy Lugo 16-7, Seth McClung 25-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jae Seo 5-5, Jon Switzer 2-0, Shawn Camp 1-0, Ruddy Lugo 2-0, Seth McClung 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Jae Seo 22, Jon Switzer 5, Shawn Camp 9, Ruddy Lugo 3, Seth McClung 7|
|Attendance - 16791|
|Game Time - 3:14|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Gary Cederstrom, First Base - Lance Barksdale, Second Base - Dan Iassogna, Third Base - Dale Scott|