Oakland's road woes continue

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The Oakland Athletics couldn't end their road woes.

Jeff Niemann took a four-hitter into the ninth inning en route to winning his fifth consecutive decision and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Athletics 8-4 on Friday night.

Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui homered for the Athletics, who have lost 30 of their last 37 games away from home. Oakland entered hitting an AL-low .232 on the road.

"It just feels like, to me, we're more aggressive at home," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "It seems like on the road, maybe we're a little passive."

Niemann (6-4) allowed four runs and seven hits over 8 2-3 innings. The right-hander was replaced by Kyle Farnsworth after giving up a pair of runs and three hits in the ninth. Niemann improved to 5-0 in eight starts since returning from a strained lower back on June 20.

"We gave ourselves some holes on the road that we have to comeback from and it's not a great recipe for success," Melvin said.

Athletics shortstop Cliff Pennington was back in the starting lineup after missing two games because of Bell's palsy and tripled in four at-bats. He left Monday's game against Seattle because of the condition that can cause partial facial paralysis.

"He did some work early," Melvin said. "He wanted to play. I think they're (the team medical staff) comfortable with the fact that he's progressing to the point where he's going in the right direction and getting better and better."

Oakland right fielder David DeJesus, slowed by right thumb soreness, also returned after missing the previous three games. He struck out with a runner on second with two outs in the fourth, and wound up 1 for 4.

Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman both had run-scoring doubles, and Matt Joyce hit an RBI single in the fifth that put the Rays up 4-0.

Niemann has won all three of his career starts against Oakland. He was looking for his first complete game since a two-hitter against Toronto on June 8, 2010.

Crisp cut the Oakland deficit to 4-2 with a two-run homer in the sixth. Tampa Bay responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning when Ben Zobrist drove in a pair on a single and B.J. Upton added a run-scoring single.

Upton also had an eighth-innng RBI triple.

Matsui hit a solo shot and Pennington had an RBI triple in the ninth.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded RBI grounder by Robinson Chirinos - that deflected off Guillermo Moscoso - with one out in the fourth. The Rays' rookie catcher has driven in seven runs over his last three games after having none in his first 11 big league games.

Moscoso (4-6) gave up four runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings.

"I was feeling really good," Moscoso said. "I was mixing it up the first three innings and I was able to command the zone. Then, for some reason, I didn't mix it up well when I was ahead in the count."

NOTES: Matsui extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a fourth-inning single. He is hitting .529 over the stretch... Oakland RHP Brandon McCarthy (4-5), Saturday's scheduled starter, is 3-0 with a 3.70 ERA in four outings since the All-Star break. ... Rays rookie RHP Alex Cobb (3-1) will face Oakland for the first time Saturday. ... Crisp has five homers this season. The first four were solo shots. ... Texas senior adviser Tom Giordano, who played for the 1953 Philadelphia Athletics, was at the game.


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