ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are at a loss to explain why they play so much better at home than on the road.
"I don't know what it is, to tell you the truth," catcher Toby Hall said Tuesday night after a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics. "It's something we've got to figure out, though."The win improved Tampa Bay's record to 13-12 at home, compared to 3-18 away from Tropicana Field. The Devil Rays lost eight of 10 on a trip that concluded Sunday, with seven of the losses by one or two runs."It's good to come home and win a game," manager Lou Piniella said. "It was nip and tuck. ... On the road, these are games that get away from us."Josh Phelps homered and had three RBI to keep up a trend of hitting better at home than on the road. Julio Lugo snapped a seventh inning tie with a run-scoring single for the Devil Rays.Phelps is 25-for-72 (.347) at home, opposed to 9-for-50 (.180) on the road."Trust me. There's nothing about this ballpark that makes me love to hit here," the designated hitter said. "Hey, I'm just not getting it done that well on the road."Reliever Travis Harper (1-2) bailed the Devil Rays out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and got two outs in the eighth for the win. Danys Baez pitched the last 1 1/3 innings for his fifth save in eight opportunities.Phelps went 3-for-4, including an RBI single and two-run homer off starter Seth Etherton. He also doubled off Kirk Saarloos (1-3) in the sixth.Saarloos was charged with Oakland's 12th error in seven games when he missed the bag on Alex Gonzalez's grounder to first baseman Scott Hatteberg in the seventh. The A's pitcher disagreed with the call by first base umpire Gerry Davis."He called him safe. I said I missed it initially but I kicked it as I went by. He said no," Saarloos said. "I said it to him again, and he said, 'You did touch the bag, but by the time that you kicked it the second time, he had beat it out.'"Carl Crawford singled, sending Gonzalez to third, and Lugo followed with his tiebreaking hit.The loss was the third straight for Oakland, which stranded four runners in scoring position in the last three innings and has dropped 12 of 15 games."I've got no problem with effort the guys are giving. They're not standing there waiting for another shoe to drop. They're out their fighting their way through it," A's manager Ken Macha said. "We've been talking about getting over the hump the whole year with that big hit. Not getting the big hit just puts the magnifying glass on the play at first base."Hatteberg hit a two-run homer off Devil Rays starter Doug Waechter and Eric Chavez had three hits and drove in two runs for the A's, who led 3-0 before faltering.Waechter settled down after giving up an RBI single to Chavez and two-run homer to Hatteberg in the first. The right-hander allowed one hit -- Chavez's infield single -- over the next three innings to give the Devil Rays a chance to rally.Etherton also had a rocky first, throwing 36 pitches and allowing an RBI double to Travis Lee and run-scoring single to Phelps.After Phelps' homer gave the Rays a 4-3 lead in the third, the A's tied it in the fifth on Chavez's third hit, a single down the left field line that gave him nine RBI during a seven-game hitting streak. His average has risen to .224 during the stretch.Etherton allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. Waechter yielded four runs and seven hits before being replaced by Jesus Colome at the start of the seventh.Oakland wasted an opportunity to go ahead after Marco Scutaro
and Mark Kotsay singled off Colome and Trever Miller hit Hatteberg with a pitch to load the bases with two outs in the seventh. Harper, the third pitcher of the inning for Tampa Bay, struck out Bobby Kielty to end the threat.The A's stranded two more in scoring position in the ninth when Kielty grounded out to end the game.
Phelps' homer was only his third in 120 at-bats. ... Oakland catcher Jason Kendall has thrown out just four of 43 attempted base stealers. The Devil Rays swiped one Tuesday night, extending opponents' streak of successful steals against Kendall to 13. ... Devil Rays outfielder Aubrey Huff was scratched from the lineup with a stiff neck, missing his second straight game.