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TB@TEX: Price tosses 6 1/3 solid innings to earn win

All Oakland needs is a single victory to reach an important landmark. With a win on Friday against the Rays, the Athletics will move over the .500 mark for the first time since May 18, 2011. But in order to do so, they'll need a much-improved performance from starting pitcher Tyson Ross.

Ross allowed a career-high nine runs on a career-high 11 hits in a 10-1 loss to Baltimore last weekend, and he'll have to out-duel Tampa Bay's David Price to earn some retribution. Price, the top overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, is just 1-1 with a 4.44 career ERA in four starts against Oakland,

"I struggled against them last year," Price said. "Seattle and Oakland always play us very tough. So it's not a team that we're looking past. Looking to come out here [on Friday] and keep throwing the ball well."

The Rays are on a hot streak that has seen them win five straight and 11 of the last 12 games. They've also won five straight series and are coming off a four-game sweep over the Mariners.

Price has won four of his first five starts this season, and he's allowed more than two earned runs just once. The left-hander said he's been mixing his pitches better this season, and he thinks he's a tougher competitor because the opposition doesn't know what's coming next.

"Yeah, it's made stuff a lot easier for me," Price said. "When I'm out there and I can throw a 2-1 changeup, ut doesn't even have to be that good of one. If it's in the strike zone, it's effective. If they're waiting on 93 or 94 [mph] and they get 83 or 84 [mph], it has a tendency to work. It's been working well for us and we're going to keep throwing different looks in different counts and keep people on their toes."

And if he's concerned about his history against Oakland, Price has a recent result to give him confidence. The 26-year-old had been winless in six previous starts against the Rangers, but he broke through for a win in his last outing by holding first-place Texas to six hits and two runs.

Ross, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out what works for him. The 25-year-old was solid in his first two starts before getting knocked around last week in his third. Ross was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on April 17, and the A's would love to see him establish a track record of consistency.

Athletics: Weeks expected to return
After missing Wednesday's game against the Red Sox because of tightness in his groin, second baseman Jemile Weeks is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday. Weeks suffered the injury while stealing third base in the fifth inning on Tuesday, and manager Bob Melvin thought it best to protect him.

"You could see when he was running to first the last time out, he was protecting it a bit," Melvin said. "He can play, but with the day off [on Thursday], we're probably better served to give him these two days."

Rays: Rhymes makes season debut

The Rays have had to find a contingency plan for third baseman Evan Longoria, who will be on the disabled list with a partially torn hamstring for the next few weeks. Will Rhymes started at third base for Longoria on Wednesday, and fellow infielder Jeff Keppinger was in at third on Thursday.

Rhymes, a natural second baseman, had never played third base in the big leagues prior to Wednesday's game, and Keppinger hadn't played there since the 2009 campaign. Still, the Rays are going to make do the best they can, and Rhymes might be their best option.

"From the offensive side of things, he's the kind of guy that doesn't normally swing and miss," said Rays manager Joe Maddon of the diminutive infielder. "He can hit lefties and righties almost equally well [and is] always going to give you a great effort. He's a very interesting guy for us to have."

Worth noting
• Tampa Bay is one of just three teams in the last 25 years to start out 12-1 or better at home. The Rays have won nine straight home games.

• Coco Crisp has been safe on 27 straight stolen-base attempts, the longest streak of his career and one short of the Oakland record (28) set by Stan Javier in 1995.

• The Rays have used a starting pitcher age 30 or younger in a record 921 straight games.

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