The team with the longest active winning streak in the majors and the club with the best overall record collide on Monday night when the Oakland Athletics play host to the Tampa Bay Rays to open a four-game series
The set is a rematch of a lopsided three-game sweep by the Rays over the A's while Tampa Bay was opening the campaign at a record-setting pace and Oakland was enduring a historically bad start
The Rays and A's still rank as the major league's best and worst, respectively, in terms of wins, but that hasn't been the case over the last five days, during which Oakland, on the road, shocked the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers for five consecutive wins
The fifth straight victory came Sunday and capped a three-game sweep that knocked the Brewers out of first place in the National League Central.
"The clubhouse is just becoming closer," Athletics outfielder Seth Brown said after contributing a three-run homer to Sunday's 8-6 win. "Guys are really starting to get to know each other and just starting to kind of jell as a team a bit.
Coincidentally, the run has occurred just as A's fans, seeking to get owner John Fisher to sell the team in hopes of keeping the club in Oakland, have scheduled a "reverse boycott" for Tuesday night. The goal of the banner-hanging, T-shirt-wearing group is to sell out the Oakland Coliseum to demonstrate the problem in Oakland isn't the stadium or the fans, but rather the disinterested owner.
Looking to extend the team's winning streak to six games before Tuesday's scheduled event will be right-hander James Kaprielian (1-6, 7.21 ERA), who got the run going with his most impressive start of the season his last time out in Pittsburgh. With the A's having lost their previous five games, he limited the Pirates to one earned run in six innings in an 11-2 road win.
Kaprielian was bombed for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay in the earlier series, a game in which he served up home runs to Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe and Harold Ramirez. It was his first and only career matchup with the Rays
Franco drilled his eighth homer of the season Sunday when the Rays won an early-season series with the top team in the American League West, the Texas Rangers, by taking the rubber match 7-3
"All the guys are showing what they're capable of doing," said Franco, whose homer was his first since May 9. "We're going to keep putting pressure on the other guys. Hopefully we can keep it going. Hopefully we can get 100 wins."
The Rays rank second in the majors with 391 runs. Despite their recent surge, the A's are third from the bottom with 245
Right-hander Zach Eflin (8-1, 2.97) will attempt to extend his personal winning streak to five games when he is scheduled to get the ball for the Rays in the series opener. He is coming off 6 2/3 shutout innings in a 7-0 home win over the Minnesota Twins last Tuesday
Eflin will be making his second start of the season against the A's, having beaten them 9-5 at home on April 7. It will be his third career start against the A's. He has gone 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his first two head-to-heads, neither of which were in Oakland.
--Field Level Media