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Oakland at Tampa Bay

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Oakland (12-9)0040010106131
Tampa Bay (15-5) «04310000x8120

Burrell, Brignac go deep as Rays tie club record for April victories

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The best start in baseball truly has been a team effort.

Pitching and defense drives Tampa Bay most nights, although the Rays also have a persistent offense that leads in the AL in runs and tops the major leagues with a .323 batting average with runners in scoring position.

The player delivering crucial hits changes nightly.

"If you look at us in general, that's what we've been all about," manager Joe Maddon said after Pat Burrell's three-run homer keyed an 8-6 victory Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics.

"There's nobody just killing it in regard to the typical batting average barometer," Maddon added. "But we've been doing a nice job in situations, and when it matters."

No. 9 hitter Reid Brignac also hit a home run, helping the Rays match a club record for victories through April.

The AL East leaders improved baseball's best record to 15-5. The victory total equals the number they had at the end of April two years ago, when they were 1-0 in March and 14-12 in April.

Burrell's three-run blast off Ben Sheets (1-2) snapped a 4-4 tie in the third inning. Brignac's solo shot leading off the bottom of the fourth gave right-hander Wade Davis (2-1) an 8-4 lead.

"To be able to contribute is as important as anything else," said Burrell, who shrugged off a slow start to drive in nine runs while helping Tampa Bay go 9-1 on a road trip that ended last week.

"If you can find a way to have a big at-bat in a game that ends up being important in the outcome," the designated hitter added, "it's kind of why we're all here."

The Rays have won 12 of their past 14 and are off to the best start in the team's 13-season history. Nevertheless, attendance for the opener of a two-game series against another first-place team drew an announced crowd of 10,825 to Tropicana Field.

Davis weathered a shaky five innings to win his second successive decision. He gave up a three-run homer to Cliff Pennington, who had four hits and four RBI -- both career highs -- for the A's.

Pennington's RBI double off Lance Cormier trimmed Oakland's deficit to 8-5 in the sixth. Adam Rosales drove in a run with his career-best fourth hit -- making it 8-6 in the eighth -- however the A's stranded the potential tying runs in scoring position when Daric Barton struck out.

Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth for Tampa Bay, earning his fifth save in five opportunities.

The Rays played without catcher Dioner Navarro, who began serving a two-game suspension for bumping an umpire during an argument last week. He also will sit out the series finale Wednesday against the A's.

Jason Bartlett's two-run single was the biggest blow in Tampa Bay's four-run second inning against Sheets, who allowed eight runs and nine hits in four innings. Carlos Pena and John Jaso, filling in for Navarro, also drove in runs in the inning.

"It was absolutely terrible," Sheets said of his shortest outing of the season. "We played good enough to win in all facets of the game except starting pitching. It's disappointing."

But Davis couldn't hold the early lead for Tampa Bay.

The A's struck for four runs of their own in the third, with Pennington's third home run of the season doing most of the damage. The A's went on to load the bases with two outs on a walk and pair of singles before Gabe Gross lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-4.

Burrell, 8 for 19 with three home runs against Sheets, put Tampa Bay ahead for good. Brignac's home run leading off the fourth inning restored a four-run lead for Davis, who yielded four runs and seven hits.

"I've found a way to hit Pat's bat a lot," Sheets said. "He's really had his way with me through the years."

Notes

  • Pennington is 6 for 24 on the road, and three of the hits have been home runs.
  • LF Eric Patterson's second-inning throwing error snapped Oakland's season-high streak of six consecutive games without an error.
  • Rays LHP J.P. Howell, who's on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left shoulder, is set to make 25 to 30 "nice and easy" throws off a mound on Wednesday.
  • Oakland C Kurt Suzuki missed his third consecutive game with soreness in his left side.
  • Barton was in the lineup at first base for the A's, despite a small fracture of his right middle finger. He was hurt Sunday sliding into the dugout to make a catch.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Reid Brignac (right), who gets a handshake from his third-base coach, helps Tampa Bay move to 15-5. (AP)
Reid Brignac (right), who gets a handshake from his third-base coach, helps Tampa Bay move to 15-5. (AP)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

J. Bartlett
AB 5
R 0
H 3
HR 0
RBI 2
Oakland

C. Pennington
AB 5
R 1
H 4
HR 1
RBI 4
 
Oakland Athletics
Cliff Pennington, SS5144001 .265
Daric Barton, 1B5000016 .303
Ryan Sweeney, RF5110010 .299
Eric Chavez, DH4000130 .220
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B5010020 .244
Gabe Gross, CF2011010 .273
   a- Jake Fox, PH-LF1000000 .194
Landon Powell, C4110013 .250
Eric Patterson, LF-CF3210101 .250
Adam Rosales, 2B4141000 .313
Totals38613629  
a-grounded out for Gross in the 8th
Batting
2B - Cliff Pennington 2 (5, Cormier, Balfour), Eric Patterson (1, Balfour)
HR - Cliff Pennington (3, Davis)
SF - Gabe Gross (1)
RBI - Cliff Pennington 4 (15), Gabe Gross (4), Adam Rosales (9)
2-OUT RBI - Cliff Pennington (7), Adam Rosales (4)
PK - Cliff Pennington (1, Davis)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
E - Eric Patterson (1, Throwing)
Oakland Athletics
Ben Sheets (L,1-2) 4988122 5.00
Craig Breslow 1000120 4.26
Jerry Blevins 1200010 3.00
Brad Ziegler 1000000 2.70
Chad Gaudin 1100000 6.75
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 78-49, Craig Breslow 24-14, Jerry Blevins 12-9, Brad Ziegler 8-7, Chad Gaudin 12-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 5-4, Chad Gaudin 2-1
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 21, Craig Breslow 4, Jerry Blevins 5, Brad Ziegler 3, Chad Gaudin 4
Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Bartlett, SS5032001 .280
Carl Crawford, LF4000013 .303
Ben Zobrist, RF4000002 .250
Evan Longoria, 3B4110020 .320
Carlos Pena, 1B3211110 .242
B.J. Upton, CF3220100 .268
Pat Burrell, DH4113002 .231
John Jaso, C4131000 .500
Reid Brignac, 2B4111013 .286
Totals35812825  
Batting
2B - Evan Longoria (6, Sheets), John Jaso (3, Sheets)
HR - Pat Burrell (2, Sheets), Reid Brignac (2, Sheets)
RBI - Jason Bartlett 2 (12), Carlos Pena (19), Pat Burrell 3 (12), John Jaso (7), Reid Brignac (6)
2-OUT RBI - Jason Bartlett 2 (7), Pat Burrell 3 (10)
CS - Jason Bartlett (2, 2nd base by Sheets/Powell)
Team LOB - 5
Tampa Bay Rays
Wade Davis (W,2-1) 5744241 3.68
Lance Cormier 0.2311010 2.79
Randy Choate (H,2) 1.1000010 11.81
Grant Balfour (H,1) 1311020 2.61
Rafael Soriano (S,5) 1000010 2.25
Pitches-Strikes - Wade Davis 95-58, Lance Cormier 22-15, Randy Choate 13-10, Grant Balfour 25-19, Rafael Soriano 13-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Wade Davis 4-6, Randy Choate 3-0, Grant Balfour 1-0, Rafael Soriano 1-1
Batters Faced - Wade Davis 23, Lance Cormier 5, Randy Choate 4, Grant Balfour 6, Rafael Soriano 3
Game Information
Attendance - 10825
Game Time - 2:49
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Mike Everitt, First Base - Andy Fletcher, Second Base - Adrian Johnson, Third Base - Tim McClelland