Sheets solid in A’s win |

Sheets solid in A’s win

OAKLAND, Calif.(AP) – Ben Sheets stopped pressing and started pitching like the ace the Oakland Athletics expected him to be.

The right-hander responded with his best outing of the season after making a slight adjustment in his pitching delivery, scattering four hits over 6 1-3 innings with a season-high eight strikeouts to help the A’s beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Saturday.

“I think I just relaxed, and I hadn’t relaxed all year,” said Sheets, who pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in nearly two years. “I felt like I was kind of returning to who I was before. I was comfortable with the adjustments I had made. Everything could be thrown for strikes.”

Sheet’s outing was in sharp contrast to his previous two starts when he allowed 17 runs in only 7 1-3 innings. One of those games was an 8-6 loss at Tampa Bay on April 27.

That led Sheets to slightly alter his pitching motion and lower his delivery slot. The results were impressive.

His eight strikeouts were his most since recording 11 against Colorado on July 9, 2008, with Milwaukee. It’s also the first time Sheets pitched into the seventh inning since Sept. 6, 2008, when he threw shut out San Diego.

“His command was a lot better,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “He said he felt his arm lower an inch or two and he felt that was a better slot. He’s always been kind of up over the top. He just wanted to get it down.”

Jason Bartlett had an RBI double for Tampa Bay, which fell to 13-2 away from Tropicana Field and lost to the A’s for the first time this season.

“We just couldn’t get it done today,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not going to happen every night. I liked the effort, that’s what I’m really locked into. I’m not at all concerned. We’ll get our hits.”

Daric Barton drove in a pair of runs and four Oakland relievers combined for 2 2-3 scoreless innings.

Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his sixth save in six tries, while Ryan Sweeney and Eric Chavez added two hits each for the A’s.