The Oakland Athletics are coming off a much-needed productive game at the plate. An even better effort from their lineup may be required with Dana Eveland set to take the mound.
After winning for the first time in six games, the Athletics hope Eveland can avoid another poor start as they face the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday in the decisive contest of a three-game set.Oakland (6-10) had lost five straight and nine of 12 before a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay (7-11) on Saturday.In the series opener Friday night, the Athletics went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position as they lost 8-2. On Saturday, they bounced back with two home runs, including Jason Giambi's first in his second stint with Oakland.Giambi, who signed a $5.25 million, one-year contract with the A's after seven seasons with the New York Yankees, hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to give Oakland a 5-1 lead."Hopefully I can keep working and relax up there now," said Giambi, who has 396 career home runs.Travis Buck also homered for Oakland, which went into the game last in the majors in several categories, including runs, home runs, hits, RBIs and batting average.With seven home runs, the A's are the only team in the American League that has yet to reach 10. San Francisco has nine homers in the NL.Oakland could certainly use another strong game at the plate, especially with Eveland (0-1, 7.36 ERA) starting. He has been terrible in three outings, surrendering 12 runs over 14 2-3 innings.On Tuesday night, the left-hander allowed four runs and nine hits while walking four in four innings as the A's lost 5-3 to the Yankees.Eveland is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Rays.Nomar Garciaparra could be behind Eveland at third base after sitting out the pitcher's last start. He went 2-for-4 with a three-run double Saturday in his first start defensively since suffering a calf injury against Boston on April 14.Garciaparra, limited to 55 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season due to several injuries, raised his average from .188 to .222.Tampa Bay, meanwhile, will give two of its infielders a scheduled day off Sunday, resting second baseman Akinori Iwamura and first baseman Carlos Pena.Utility man Ben Zobrist may replace Iwamura. It's uncertain who will start for Pena, who leads the Rays with eight home runs and 21 RBIs.Missing Pena won't help a Tampa Bay lineup that has scored two runs or fewer in four of its last six games, suffering losses in all four of those contests.Andy Sonnanstine (0-2, 5.74) has gotten a total of six runs to work with in three starts. He's coming off his second loss, as he gave up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits while striking out seven in six innings as Tampa Bay lost 4-2 to Seattle on Tuesday night.The right-hander is 2-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics.