Series: Game 1 of 3

Oakland leads 1-0 (as of 8/29)

Game 1: Friday, August 29
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Game 2: Saturday, August 30
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Game 3: Sunday, August 31
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Devil Rays 2

(53-80, 24-43 away)

Athletics 5

(80-55, 48-21 home)

    10:05 PM ET, August 29, 2003 Coliseum, Oakland, California 

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    TB 100001000 2 7 0
    OAK 20111000 - 5 7 0

    W: T. Hudson (14-4)

    L: J. Kennedy (3-11)

    S: K. Foulke (37)

    Oakland tops Tampa Bay, keeps West lead at 2

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- During a baffling series of no-decisions and difficult losses earlier this season, Tim Hudson called himself the unluckiest pitcher in baseball.

    That luck has changed dramatically -- and Hudson is leading the way as the Oakland Athletics make another run at the playoffs.

    Hudson allowed six hits over eight innings and Eric Chavez drove in three runs as the A's matched a season high with their seventh straight victory, 5-2 over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday night.

    Mark Ellis scored two runs and drove in another as the A's maintained their two-game lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners. After trailing Seattle since April 12, Oakland took sole possession of first place Wednesday.

    Hudson (14-4) won his fifth straight start and his seventh straight decision, retiring the final seven batters he faced and striking out seven. He is 5-0 in eight career starts against Tampa Bay, and the Devil Rays' young lineup gave him little trouble.

    "It's almost turned a 180," Hudson said. "I tried to tell you all that that bad luck was going to turn into good luck one of these days, and it did."

    Hudson improved to 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA in August, the clearest sign yet that Hudson's hard-luck days are over -- and his chances for a Cy Young award are getting better.

    "He made strikeouts and a whole bunch of ground ball outs," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "I think there were only five balls in the air."

    At 78-30, Hudson has the best winning percentage in major league history among pitchers with at least 50 victories.

    Keith Foulke pitched the ninth for his AL-leading 36th save in 41 chances. Rocco Baldelli doubled with one out, but Terrence Long threw out the All-Star trying to stretch it to a triple.

    Aubrey Huff drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which lost for the seventh time in nine games. The Devil Rays helped out Oakland earlier in the week, taking two of three from the Mariners.

    "(Hudson) has got really good stuff," said Huff, who's hitting 15-for-32 (.469) during an eight-game hitting streak. "He hasn't got the hype of the other starters, but his numbers are right there with everybody else. He has some of the best stuff in the league, and he showed it tonight."

    With their 11th win in 13 games, the A's matched their best winning streak of the season (June 13-20).

    Oakland's current winning streak is still two weeks shy of its AL-record 20-game streak last summer, but both streaks put the A's in first place during the stretch run to the playoffs.

    "The intensity is probably a little bit higher," Ellis said. "It's coming down to that part of the year when baseball is a lot of fun. We're always good at this time of year."

    After sweeping three games from Baltimore to begin the homestand, Oakland beat Tampa Bay for the third time in four meetings this season. The A's have won 15 of their last 17 against the Rays.

    Carl Crawford hit a leadoff triple against Hudson and scored on Huff's sacrifice fly in the first inning, but Oakland quickly took control against Joe Kennedy (3-11).

    Chavez, who was 0-for-11 in his career against Kennedy, hit a two-run double in the bottom of the first, scoring Ellis and Miguel Tejada. He added a single in the third, again scoring Ellis.

    Chavez is hitting well above .300 in August, which annually has been the best month of his career.

    Ellis had an RBI double in the fourth. After Kennedy walked the bases loaded in the fifth, Chris Singleton drove in another run with a walk from Brandon Backe, who pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings of relief.

    Kennedy allowed seven hits, five runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings -- another disastrous outing for Tampa Bay's opening day starter. Kennedy hasn't won in 13 starts since May 13, going 0-8 and pitching into the seventh inning just three times.

    After the game, manager Lou Piniella banished Kennedy to the bullpen.

    "I'm going to ... see if he can do some good using him out of there," Piniella said. "I've been thinking about it for a while. It's been a long dry spell for him."

    Huff added a run-scoring single in the sixth.

    Game notes

    The A's lead the majors with 48 home victories. Only San Francisco has a better winning percentage at home. ... Golden State Warriors coach Eric Musselman took batting practice before the game. Musselman, who played high school baseball in Ricksville, Ohio, hit a few line drives amid a whole bunch of grounders. "I wanted to get it out of the infield," Musselman said. ... RHP Jeremi Gonzalez reached the Devil Rays' clubhouse about 90 minutes before Friday night's game after spending four days in his native Venezuela with his wife, Maria, who had complications from recent abdominal surgery. "It was good to see my two daughters, too," Gonzalez said. He will start Sunday.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press