Athletics 4, Rays 2

The first leg of the Oakland Athletics’ seven-game road trip

went just fine.

Brandon McCarthy pitched seven solid innings and Oakland beat

the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Saturday.

Chris Carter and Seth Smith homered for the Athletics, who took

two of three from Tampa Bay and moved within a half-game of the AL

wild card-leading Rays. Oakland has won eight of 10 to go a

season-high 12 games over .500.

”I think we just keep proving that we’re not a fluke,”

McCarthy said.

The Athletics lost 5-0 in the series opener on Thursday, then

rebounded for a 5-4 win on Friday. They open a four-game series at

Cleveland on Monday night.

”This isn’t the easiest place to play, and it ended up being a

real good series for us,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

McCarthy (7-5) allowed two runs and four hits while improving to

9-0, including three wins this season, against AL East teams over

14 starts since 2009. The right-hander was coming off a rough start

last Monday when he gave up six runs and 10 hits over 3 1-3 innings

in a loss to Minnesota.

”I thought it was quite the recovery for him,” Melvin

said.

After Sean Doolittle struck out two during a perfect eighth,

Grant Balfour got the final three outs for his 14th save.

”It’s obviously a big series for us momentum-wise,” Athletics

right fielder Josh Reddick said.

The Rays dropped to 16-7 in August.

”I give Oakland a lot of credit,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon

said. ”You can’t take anything away from what they’re doing.

They’re playing good baseball. They’re playing with a lot of energy

so I give them credit. But we have to be better.”

Carter hit a two-run shot off Jeremy Hellickson (8-9), helping

Oakland take a 3-0 lead in the first. Coco Crisp scored the first

run of the game from third when catcher Jose Lobaton made an errant

throw to second on Stephen Drew’s stolen base.

”I could have got out of it … it’s pretty frustrating,”

Hellickson said.

Smith put the Athletics up 4-1 with his 12th homer in the

third.

The Rays loaded the bases with no outs during the second, but

only managed one run on Lobaton’s sacrifice fly. They also got a

solo homer from Desmond Jennings in the fifth.

Hellickson yielded six hits, struck out five and walked none in

five innings.

Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell extended his team-record shutout

streak to 26 2-3 consecutive innings after pitching a scoreless

seventh.

Both teams will have a rare Sunday off because Tropicana Field

is one of the venues being used for the Republican National

Convention.

According to the Rays, Oakland and Seattle did not play the

first Sunday this season (April 8) due in part to opening the

regular season in Japan. Before that, the last time there wasn’t a

game scheduled on a Sunday was Sept. 10, 1995, when San Diego and

St. Louis were off because of a scheduling conflict with the NFL’s

St. Louis Rams at Busch Stadium.

NOTES: Reddick, who began the day mired in 14-for-94 slide, was

dropped from third to sixth in the lineup. ”Anytime a guy goes

through some struggles, you want to change it up a little bit,”

Melvin said. ”We expect him back in the three-spot before long.”

Reddick went 3 for 4, including a double. … Hellickson threw 41

pitches in the first. … Carter has hit eight of 11 homers this

season on the road. … The Rays allowed four or more runs in

consecutive games for the first time since July 7-8 against

Cleveland.