Left-hander Scott Kazmir didn't get off to a good start Sunday, allowing home runs to Oakland's second and third hitters.
But whereas in the past Kazmir might have become more tentative, he showed signs of his maturity as a pitcher by becoming more aggressive.
"That was not the way I wanted to start," he said. "I was just trying to find my way through the game early, trying to ease into it. I need to stop doing that and need to start just going after guys."
Manager Joe Maddon said Kazmir never looked comfortable, which made him even more impressive that Kazmir was able to work seven strong innings.
It was the first of Kazmir's 70 major-league starts with only one strikeout, but he did battle. He mixed in enough changeups and spotted his fastball to both sides of the plate to keep the A's from scoring.
"At no point did he get into a groove," Maddon said. "But to his credit he battled through some situations."
RAYS 5, A'S 3: Left-hander Scott Kazmir turned in a solid seven-inning outing. B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli and Elijah Dukes homered. Al Reyes finished after Brian Stokes bailed out Shawn Camp in the eighth.
RHP Al Reyes converted his ninth consecutive save, breaking Roberto Hernandez's 1999 April team record. The Rays record for any month is 10 by Danys Baez in September 2005.
3B Ty Wigginton's fourth-inning single snapped an 0-for-25 road skid, including the first four games of this trip.
2B B.J. Upton admits he too is surprised to be leading the team with 20 RBIs and five home runs through its first 25 games. "Yea," he said. "Just a little bit." Upton ranks among the league leaders with a .365 average, .689 slugging percentage and a .522 average with runners in scoring position.
Twice in three days the Rays played a brutal first inning and went on to sustain a horrible loss, and have been outscored 24-4 in the first innings of their first 25 games. After Saturday's 12-5 beating at Oakland, manager Joe Maddon said something has to change. "We have to get ready to play mentally," Maddon said. "It's a mental thing. You've got to get out there and turn up that dial. I think it's a youthful thing sometimes. … We've got to be ready from the first pitch. The physical preparation is good. We give them all the information. We just have to be more acute mentally early in the game."
DH Rocco Baldelli returned to action on Sunday, having been sidelined since bruising his right knee while crashing into the outfield wall Thursday in Anaheim. Baldelli said there was still some discomfort and he didn't know how quickly he would be likely to return to center field.
BY THE NUMBERS: 24-4 -- Margin by which the Rays were outscored in the first innings of the first 25 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "B.J., God bless him, continues to stay hot in crucial moments. ... He's been incredible." -- Manager Joe Maddon, on .365-hitting B.J. Upton, who leads the team with five homers and 20 RBIs.
CF Rocco Baldelli (right leg contusion) left the game April 26 and returned as the DH on April 29.
3B Akinori Iwamura (straining right oblique) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 24. He will miss four to six weeks.
INF/DH Greg Norton (surgery on torn medial meniscus in right knee) is expected to be out until May. He opened the season on the disabled list.
RHP Shinji Mori (torn labrum) is rehabbing without surgery and might be ready by midseason.
RHP Doug Waechter (shoulder surgery) is rehabbing and is expected to be game-ready by June.
The Rays will begin a six game homestand on Tuesday night when they welcome the Minnesota Twins to town. In the series opener, Edwin Jackson will square off against Sidney Ponson. The Oakland Athletics will come to town over the weekend.