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Tue, Jul 26, 2011 - 10:05 PM ET
 

Rays-Athletics Preview

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Once one of the league's best road teams, the Tampa Bay Rays are struggling to close out games away from home in July.

After blowing another late lead, the slumping Rays will try to bounce back as they continue their series against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay was a major league-best 26-16 on the road heading into this month, but the Rays are 3-7 away from home in July and have dropped 12 of 20 overall as they struggle to stay in the playoff hunt.

Tampa Bay (53-48) lost 7-5 to Oakland (45-57) on Monday, and is 9 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East.

It was a lost opportunity for the Rays, whose bullpen squandered a two-run lead in the seventh when Conor Jackson had a two-run, go-ahead double.

"It was just one of those nights it didn't work. They just got us," manager Joe Maddon said. "Overall it wasn't that bad of game but we can't give up that kind of lead."

Tampa Bay's relievers are 0-4 with a 5.51 ERA in the last 11 games, blowing back-to-back save opportunities. On Saturday at Kansas City, the Rays had a 4-3 lead going into the ninth before losing 5-4 in 10.

Despite Monday's loss, Tampa Bay received another productive performance from Desmond Jennings, who had an RBI double among his two hits. He's 6 for 11 with three doubles and three stolen bases in three games since being called up and inserted into the leadoff spot.

Ben Zobrist had a homer and two doubles for his second straight three-hit game. He is batting .386 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 15 games, raising his average 20 points to .276.

David Price (9-8, 3.67 ERA) will take the mound for the Rays after taking a tough loss his last time out.

Price gave up a two-run homer in the first inning - his only runs allowed over 7 1-3 innings of a 4-0 loss to New York on Wednesday.

Home runs have been a problem for Price recently. He's allowed six in the last four games, accounting for seven of his last 13 runs allowed.

The left-hander went 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts against Oakland last year.

He'll want to pitch carefully to Jackson, who is 8 for 20 with three doubles in the last five games and batting .350 over the last 11.

"It's been a while since I've strung a lot of bats together so it's starting to click," Jackson said.

The Athletics will counter with Brandon McCarthy (2-5, 3.74), who said he was bothered by heat in his last start.

McCarthy gave up four runs in five-plus innings of a 7-5 win over Detroit on Wednesday. He didn't factor in the decision.

"I've never felt like that before," he said. "It was like pitching while wearing a heavy blanket. I never got comfortable."

The right-hander hasn't faced the Rays since 2009 while with Texas. He is 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA against them in his career, but hasn't allowed an earned run in his last two starts against them, spanning 12 1-3 innings.

Tagged: Athletics, Rays, Conor Jackson, David Price

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