Athletics-Rays Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays’ offense is really clicking following a rough

patch last month. Alex Cobb could have used that kind of support

the last time he took the ball.

The rookie right-hander makes his first start against the

Oakland Athletics on Saturday night at Tropicana Field, where the

Rays try to extend their longest winning streak since June to

four.

Since hitting .225 and averaging 3.3 runs during a 4-11 stretch

from July 9-27 that saw them fade from contention in the AL East,

the Rays (59-52) are scoring 6.6 runs per game while winning six of

eight.

Tampa Bay pounded out 14 hits in Friday’s 8-4 series-opening

victory and has scored seven or more runs in a season-best three

consecutive games.

“They’ve put up great at-bats recently and hopefully we can keep

it going,” starter Jeff Niemann said after going 8 2-3 innings.

The Rays, though, matched a season low with one hit – an RBI

single by Ben Zobrist – in a 3-2 loss at Seattle last Saturday when

Cobb (3-1, 2.79 ERA) suffered his first major league defeat.

The 23-year-old right-hander, who has a 1.86 ERA in three starts

since last being called up July 18, struck out a season-best nine

against the Mariners, giving up three runs and six hits over 6 1-3

innings.

“Throughout a game, you’re going to make some bad pitches. I

just felt like today when I made some bad pitches, they really

capitalized on them,” Cobb told the Rays’ official website.

Cobb will try to help the Rays continue their longest winning

streak since a four-game run June 22-26. He’ll face an A’s team

that’s lost 30 of 37 on the road after dropping to 0-4 on its

nine-game trip.

“It just feels like, to me, we’re more aggressive at home,”

interim manager Bob Melvin said. “It seems like on the road, maybe

we’re a little passive.”

Trying to avoid its first five-game skid since a season-worst

0-10 stretch May 30-June 9, Oakland (49-63) will counter with

Brandon McCarthy (4-5, 3.58).

The right-hander has been effective in four starts since the

All-Star break, going 3-0 with a 3.70 ERA. He fanned a season-best

nine in six innings of Sunday’s 7-3 win over Minnesota.

“I thought he had good stuff the whole game,” Melvin said.

McCarthy had one of his best starts of the season last week

versus Tampa Bay, going eight strong innings in a 6-1 home win July

26. He is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in seven career starts against the

Rays.

Tampa Bay first baseman Casey Kotchman, 6 for 12 with a double

off McCarthy, is batting .414 (12 for 29) with a homer and four

RBIs in his last seven contests after posting his third straight

two-hit game Friday.

B.J. Upton, who matched a season high with three hits in the

series opener, has three hits and six strikeouts in 12 at-bats

against McCarthy. The Rays center fielder has tripled in

back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

After being diagnosed with Bell’s palsy on Monday, A’s shortstop

Cliff Pennington had an RBI triple in the series opener in his

first game back. He is 8 for 17 against Rays pitching in 2011.

Teammate Hideki Matsui will try to extend his hitting streak to

14 after going 2 for 4 with a solo homer Friday. He’s batting .529

(27 for 51) during the run.