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Tampa Bay Rays defeat Oakland Athletics 4-1 for third straight road series win

OAKLAND, Calif. — They've started and stopped, teased and tantalized, given you reason to cheer and curse, sometimes in the same breath, for months. But as the Rays headed home after Wednesday's 4-1 win over the A's, they were convinced the pivotal road trip they'd just completed — winning series at Baltimore, Anaheim and Oakland, six of nine games overall — was, finally, the start of something sustainable.

"I want to believe it is," manager Joe Maddon said. "This the time of the year we normally do do these things. When you go on a road trip like this, which has never been friendly to us, and win three series against three really good ballclubs that are ahead of you, and switch time zones and have to battle all that, day games after night games … that's pretty good."

"Really good," first baseman Carlos Peña said. "To come out of this road trip playing good ballclubs and winning each series is a great sign. It's a very positive sign. We want to ride this positive momentum. … We can always use that.

"We've been battling over the past few months, so to be able to come off this road trip in such a way, end it on a positive note, what a great thing it is for us. I think at the end of the day it could be very positive."

They were feeling so good because they played so well, another solid all-around game to improve to 55-50 and move back into a second-place tie with the Orioles.

Pitching was, again, the key, as Alex Cobb took his turn and maintained the momentum that produced a tremendous 1.70 staff ERA for the trip, working seven innings and allowing just the one run on four hits and one walk. The defense was again smooth.

And, most importantly, the offense continued to show signs of warming. Peña led the way with a home run (off lefty Jordan Norberto) and a run-scoring double to take over the team RBI lead from injured Luke Scott with 46. Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Roberts and Desmond Jennings (who also walked twice) had two hits each, and B.J. Upton two sacrifice bunts.

The trip was a big test for several reasons: All three teams were ahead of them in the race for the two wild-card spots, the schedule was rugged, the history not good. Add in navigating the uncertainty of the trade deadline and the potential residuals from losing Monday's 15-inning marathon, and 6-3 was something to celebrate — which they did, loudly, afterward in the clubhouse. It was the first time in franchise history they won three series on a road trip against teams with winning records.

"It's pretty spectacular," Maddon said. "To win each series is about as good as it gets right now."

To make it matter, of course, they have to keep winning, starting with a six-game homestand against Baltimore and Toronto that opens Friday before they head out on another cross-country journey.

At the least, they are confident they can.

"Absolutely," Upton said. "With the way we've been playing; the confidence is always there but I think it's definitely going to go up after this road trip."

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

AL wild-card standings

Angels57-47.548—*

A's56-48.538—

Rays55-50.5241.5

Orioles55-50.5241.5

Tigers55-50.5241.5

Red Sox53-52.5053.5

* Late game not included

Road trippers

The Rays gained some ground on the road:

W-LALEWC

Start of trip:49-479 GB2.5 GB

End of trip:55-506.5 GB1.5 GB

Pitching in

How good was the Rays pitching? Here are the lines from the six wins

IP H R BB K
7/24 at BAL 9 3 1 2 10
7/25 at BAL 9 7 1 0 13
7/28 at LAA 9 5 0 2 11
7/29 at LAA 9 4 0 0 8
7/31 at OAK 9 3 0 0 11
8/1 at OAK 9 5 1 1 7


Road trippers

Chatter hereyyy

W-LALEWC

Start of trip:49-479 GB2.5 GB

End of trip:55-506.5 GB1.5 GB

Tampa Bay Rays defeat Oakland Athletics 4-1 for third straight road series win 08/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:02am]
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