Pitching duel set to highlight Rays-Athletics opener

Updated: August 30, 2013

(Sports Network) – A terrific pitchers’ duel is on tap Friday, as Jarrod
Parker and the Oakland Athletics welcome David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays
for the first of three games in a potential playoff preview at O.co Coliseum.

Both Oakland and Tampa Bay occupy the two wild card spots in the American
League with the Rays holding a half-game edge on their counterparts.

The two pitchers squaring off on Friday are a big reason why these teams
are in the position they are, as Parker is 8-0 in 16 starts since May 28,
while Price is unbeaten in eight starts since the All-Star break.

“It’s good. This time of year, when you’re down a couple games, you want to
play the guys that are ahead of you so you can gain a full game,” Price said
of the matchup. “We’re not watching them play and hoping they lose. If we
handle business, those are very big games.”

Parker has shaken off a slow start and has been one of the best pitchers in
the American League, especially of late. He beat the Baltimore Orioles on
Saturday, holding them to a run and five hits in eight innings to run his
overall record to 10-6, while lowering his ERA to 3.58.

Over his last three outings Parker has surrendered a combined three runs and
has gone eight innings in each start.

However, he is 0-2 in three starts against the Rays.

Price, meanwhile, beat the New York Yankees his last time out, as he
surrendered a pair of runs and five hits in six innings to improve to 8-5 on
the year to go along with a 3.28 ERA.

In six starts versus the A’s the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award
winner is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA.

These teams sit atop the wild card standings, but both are very much in the
mix in their respective divisions. Tampa is just 2 1/2 games back of the
Boston Red Sox in the AL East, while Oakland sits three games behind the Texas
Rangers in the West.

Tampa, though, has lost four of its last five and Oakland comes in having won
four of its last six, despite a heartbreaking loss on Thursday.

Oakland allowed Detroit to score four runs in the ninth inning and lost, 7-6,
on a three-run, game-winning home run from Torii Hunter.

“I felt terrible today. I don’t know what it was. I had nothing. I didn’t have
a fastball, I didn’t have a good breaking ball,” said closer Grant Balfour,
who had blown just one other save opportunity this year.

Tampa swept a three-game set from the A’s earlier in the year and has beaten
them in six of the last eight matchups.