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Tampa Bay Rays beat Oakland Athletics 8-2

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rays do have it in them.

They showed it when they piled up 26 runs in back-to-back wins over the Orioles and Yankees. They showed it when they scored nine Wednesday night in Seattle.

And they showed it again Friday night, when they busted out early and coasted to an 8-2 win over the A's.

"We did a lot of good things," manager Joe Maddon said. "We were better. The at-bats were good. A lot of guys are starting to look more like they're supposed to look.'' Now they have to show they can look that way over an extended period and score enough consistently to start winning games (they're now 7-10), and series (they've lost four straight), on a more regular basis.

Friday was another glimpse of what they think they are capable of offensively, plus a strong start by Scott Kazmir and another, by now almost nightly, highlight-clip catch by centerfielder B.J. Upton.

Carlos Peña led the way with a pair of home runs, giving him a major-league-most eight. "I think it's very helpful. We try to draw some confidence from games like this," Peña said. "Hopefully we get on a nice little winning track."

Gabe Gross showed his swing was indeed on the right path, as Maddon said it was in starting him over Ben Zobrist against Oakland rookie Trevor Cahill, with his first two extra-base hits of the season, a second-inning homer and a double.

Jason Bartlett had four hits from the bottom of the order, and Upton and Carl Crawford were on base five times at the top.

The Rays played hungry, which they were after an edict from their home office to limit unhealthy food choices in the road clubhouses as well. And they were hot (13 hits), impressive since it was another cold night, with a first-pitch temperature of 54 degrees.

In their seven wins, they've averaged 8.6 runs and hit .353; in their 10 losses they've averaged 2.1 runs and hit .196. So a little consistency would be good.

"We just try to focus on what we can control, and that is 1-9 having some good at-bats, and when we do that we're going to be able to score a lot of runs,'' Pena said. "And when we don't, whether it's from a lack of focus or sometimes we just get a pretty good pitcher like we did in Seattle (Felix Hernandez), I think it shows. When we're putting good at-bats together, we took a lot of pitches in the first inning, it's a good sign, and the next thing you know we're on the board.''

Kazmir did his part to help, overcoming a bit of a shaky beginning to work six shutout innings, improving to 3-1 and eliminating at least most of any concerns from his previous rough outing. He allowed only two singles while walking three, allowing the leadoff man to reach in each of the first three innings but none to score, and retired his final 11.

"Kaz righted himself - that was still the big part of the game; I always look at that,'' Maddon said. "He started out not really on, and then really got into a pretty nice (groove), the last 3 ½ innings he started to become more consistent with his strike throwing, a much better repeated delivery. I liked that a lot.''

Kazmir didn't like how it started either, as he once again was going side-to-side in his delivery rather than directly to the plate. "As the game went on I kind of calmed down a little bit – I was getting a little frustrated out there,'' he said. "I just had to battle out there pretty much. And I had some great defense behind me, a couple really good plays that really gave me confidence.''

He had no problems, however, with the outcome. "I'll take it any chance I can get,'' he said, "but there's still a lot of room for improvement.''

A day after being held to four singles in a frustrating 1-0 loss at Seattle, the Rays came out hitting and took advantage of the inexperienced Cahill, a 21-year-old right-hander making his fourth big-league start after splitting last season between Class A and Double A.

The Rays got off to a quick start. They scored one in the first, when Upton walked and Crawford doubled; one in the second, when Gross led off with a homer; and five in the third to break it open.

Peña's three-run homer was the big blast, but it was a team effort as the Rays sent 11 to the plate. Crawford walked and Evan Longoria doubled ahead of Peña's homer, then with two outs they rapped four consecutive hits, Dioner Navarro singling in Gross, and Akinori Iwamura doubling in Navarro and ending Cahill's miserable night.

The Rays added another in the sixth when Peña led off with another homer, the 14th multi-homer game of his career.

The Rays started the season in a bit of a funk, especially offensively. They came to Oakland having lost seven of their last nine, and scoring three or fewer runs in all seven losses. And they'd dropped four consecutive series, after not losing any more than two straight all of last season.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays 8

A's 2

Tampa Bay Rays beat Oakland Athletics 8-2 04/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:59am]

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