ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jason Bartlett goes about his business quietly with the AL champion Rays, content to stay out of the spotlight in a clubhouse full of rising young stars.
The slick-fielding shortstop solidified Tampa Bay's defense during last season's run to the World Series. Now, his hot bat is one of the reasons the team has been able to put together a season-best four-game winning streak and is back to .500 for the first time since mid-April."I know he played really well last year. But at no point did I see him play this well," manager Joe Maddon said after Bartlett drove in a career-high five runs in Monday night's 13-4 rout of the Oakland Athletics. "I'm talking a complete game."Bartlett went 3 for 3 with a walk to raise his batting average to .384. He had a two-run single off Sean Gallagher (1-2) in the first, as well as a run-scoring triple in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth off Gio Gonzalez.Bartlett's most impressive contribution might have been scoring from second base on a passed ball in the first inning. Yet Bartlett insisted he was not satisfied with his performance because he also committed a throwing error that helped Oakland score its first run."I take a lot of pride in my defense," he said. "It would have been a great day if I hadn't made the error."Rookie right-hander Jeff Niemann (4-3) allowed four runs and eight hits in eight innings to win for the fourth time in five decisions. He struck out three and walked none in the longest outing of his career.Jason Isringhausen, who came off the disabled list Sunday, pitched the ninth for Tampa Bay -- his first appearance in a major league game since undergoing right elbow surgery in September, when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals."It was good to get out there," said Isringhausen, who had last thrown in a game Aug. 16 at Cincinnati."I had nerves, believe me. It started in the second or third inning because I didn't know when I'd be used," the 36-year-old right-hander said. "Niemann did a great job going out there through eight innings. It was a big pickup for the bullpen."The A's, swept at Detroit last weekend, have been outscored 47-13 during a four-game losing streak in which their starting pitchers have yielded 31 runs (23 earned) in 13 innings. Despite giving up just three hits, Gallagher allowed nine runs in 2 1/3 innings."We've hit a big bump in our pitching," A's manager Bob Geren said. "It needs to improve, and it will."Akinori Iwamura drove in three runs for the Rays, who had at least one stolen base in each of the previous 19 games. After building a big early lead, they didn't even attempt a steal.The streak was the longest in the AL since the 1914 Yankees swiped a base in 19 straight games.Bartlett's first two RBIs came during Tampa Bay's six-run first. That inning, Gallagher walked Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded, hit the next batter with a pitch to force in another run and later watched two others race home on a passed ball.On the passed ball, catcher Kurt Suzuki appeared to lose sight of the pitch and was struck in the left shoulder while trying to duck out of the way."I lost control of the ball. I feel terrible," Gallagher said. "The guy is expecting the ball to break and it stays straight."The A's scored on Jason Giambi's first-inning sacrifice fly, Orlando Cabrera's solo homer in the third and Jack Cust's two-run homer in the eighth.
The Rays stole 43 bases during their streak and lead the majors with 67. ... Cabrera has homered in consecutive games after going 38 without one dating to last season. ... Oakland put RHP Dan Giese (right elbow) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Gonzalez from Triple-A Sacramento. ... A's INF Nomar Garciaparra (right calf), on the DL since April 29, might be ready to return Wednesday. He ran the bases, fielded grounders at third base and took batting practice before the game. ... Rays C Dioner Navarro was out of the lineup because of pink eye. He could return before the end of the series.