What's new: The A's (12-8) are the surprise leaders of the AL West, with their strong starting pitching a big reason why. They have a new ace in four-time All-Star Ben Sheets (who pitches tonight), and the defending AL rookie of the year in closer Andrew Bailey. Their previously quiet bats erupted Sunday with 11 runs and 15 hits against the Indians. C Kurt Suzuki could return tonight after missing two games with soreness in his left side.
Key stat: The A's starting pitchers have yielded three runs or fewer in 17 of their first 20 games this season.
Connections: Rays first-base coach George Hendrick and 1B Carlos Peña are former A's. Oakland OF Gabe Gross is an ex-Ray.
Series history: The A's won last year's season series 6-4, but the Rays have won 16 of the past 29 meetings and are 24-23 against the A's since 2005 after going 17-49 the first seven years. The Rays are 41-72 all-time vs. the A's, 26-33 at Tropicana Field.
Joe Smith, Times staff writer