After a slow start, the Oakland Athletics have a chance to end one of their longest road trips of the season on a winning note. Accomplishing that goal, however, might prove difficult for a couple of reasons.
The A's could be short-handed for Friday night's opener of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, owners of the best home record in the majors.Oakland (13-13) won the opener of its nine-game trip last Friday against Baltimore before dropping three in a row. The A's, though, rebounded with a pair of two-run victories over Boston before heading off to Florida.Seth Smith, Kila Ka'aihue and Brandon Inge hit RBI doubles during the sixth inning of a 4-2 win Wednesday, and Brian Fuentes became the sixth left-hander to register 200 career saves.Leadoff hitter Jemile Weeks missed that game due to groin tightness and Coco Crisp left because of continuing problems with illness, but Kurt Suzuki stayed in despite getting hit by a pitch on his left hand."For us to win two of three shows the resiliency of this club," manager Bob Melvin said.Crisp might head to the disabled list, while Suzuki's status is unknown for Friday. Weeks is expected back in the lineup as the A's attempt to record their third three-game win streak of the season.Oakland will also be trying to send the Rays (18-8) to only their second home loss and first in 10 games. Tampa Bay improved to 12-1 at Tropicana Field with Thursday's 4-3 victory over Seattle, highlighted by Jeff Keppinger's two-run homer and Desmond Jennings' two-run triple in the second inning.Keppinger was making his first start at third base for Evan Longoria, who is out for the next six to eight weeks because of a torn hamstring. B.J. Upton is also dealing with tightness in his right quad."It was a great team effort," manager Joe Maddon said. "Everybody has a piece of the ownership right now, and I like that."The Rays are one of four teams in the last 25 years to start 12-1 or better at home. The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first 13 games in 2009 before suffering a loss.Tampa Bay is 13-2 in its last 15 overall and can match a season high Friday with a sixth straight win.That victory would also be the Rays' 10th in a row at home and give them their longest streak since a franchise-record 11 straight April 22-May 13, 2008. David Price (4-1, 2.67 ERA) will try to help deliver that win by ending his recent woes against the A's.The left-hander, 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three starts, is 0-1 with a 6.48 ERA in his last three versus Oakland. He gave up four runs over 4 2/3 innings during a 5-4 home loss Aug. 7."I struggled against them last year," Price told the team's official website. "It's not a team that we're looking past. (I'm) looking to come out here and keep throwing the ball well."Oakland's Tyson Ross (1-1, 6.48) will try to bounce back from the worst outing of his career when he makes his first start against Tampa Bay. The right-hander was tagged for nine runs and 11 hits over four innings of a 10-1 loss in Baltimore on Saturday.Ross hadn't allowed more than three runs in any of first 10 career starts.