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.
"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.
"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."
- 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.