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Devil Rays toss 0's against A's

Emergency starter Cory Lidle combines with Doug Creek to two-hit Oakland.

Cory Lidle had the A's seeing double Friday, and it wasn't just because his twin brother, Kevin, was in the stands.

Lidle moved the ball all around the strike zone, holding the A's to two hits over seven innings as the Devil Rays scored a 4-0 victory.

Doug Creek finished the job, striking out his first four batters, for his first big-league save. The combined two-hitter was the Rays' best pitching performance of the season.

Lidle was tapped to fill a spot in the rotation that has been patched together all season, and he made the best of his first start in two months.

"The quick outs, the weak ground-ball outs, that tells you what kind of movement he had," said manager Larry Rothschild, who served the final day of his three-game suspension. "And I thought he was more aggressive going after hitters in the strike zone and making them put it in play."

"He just hit his spots in and out to everybody," Oakland's Adam Piatt said. "You really couldn't zero in on it."

The Rays were opportunistic on offense as well, turning five hits off Oakland's Gil Heredia into an easy victory.

They got a big break, and two big runs, in the fourth. Miguel Cairo led off with a single, his second hit of the night, and moved to third on two groundouts, but he appeared to be stranded when Greg Vaughn hit a popup into shallow leftfield.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada drifted back tracking the ball, but Piatt, a rookie making his seventh start in leftfield, butted in, calling off Tejada, then dropping the ball.

"I wasn't aggressive enough," Piatt said.

Vaughn raced to second as Cairo trotted home, and red-hot Vinny Castilla, 7-for-16 since coming off the disabled list, made the mistake hurt twice as much, ripping a run-scoring double to left-center.

"You can't sit around waiting for the other teams to make mistakes," Rothschild said. "But when you get a break, you'd better take advantage of it."

They got two more in the ninth when Steve Cox beat out an infield single and Vaughn homered to left with two outs, his 26th of the season.

The A's are in the middle of the race for a playoff spot, battling Seattle for the American League West title and jousting with Boston, Cleveland and others for the wild-card spot, but the bay area fans hardly seem to notice.

Friday's game, played on a delightful California evening, drew an announced crowd of 12,085 to Network Associates Coliseum. At least it felt like home for the Rays, who have won two in a row after losing six straight.

Though some of the Rays may not appear to have anything to play for as the season plods to a conclusion, Lidle knows he is battling for a spot on the team, or some team, next season.

He didn't know for sure he was starting until Thursday afternoon, the final day of his three-game suspension, but he was up to the challenge, turning in his best major-league start.

"I like to start, and that's where I want to be ultimately," Lidle said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen in five days. I'm just glad I made the most of it."

And it was more special because his brother, Kevin, a minor-league catcher in the Anaheim organization, got to see it. The two are fraternal twins, with Cory arriving eight minutes earlier. But to look at them, they appear identical, close enough that they used to switch classes all the time.

"It's awesome that he was here," Cory said. "We love to hang around with each other."

Lidle retired the first six, then did a good job working out of whatever trouble he got in.

He walked the first two in the third, but made a good play on Ramon Hernandez's bunt to nab the lead runner at third, then got Terrence Long and Randy Velarde to ground out. It was the only inning in which he faced more than four batters.

Oakland slugger Jason Giambi doubled to open fourth and moved to third on a grounder, but Lidle shut the A's down again, getting Tejada and Ben Grieve to ground out.

Giambi had the only hits off Lidle, but he had something of an advantage: The two played on the same South Hills High School team in West Covina, Calif.