- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Drew Pomeranz may have found his niche as a starting pitcher.

Pomeranz won his third consecutive start since moving from the bullpen into the rotation, Coco Crisp drove in two runs before departing with an injury, and the surging Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Tuesday night.

Pomeranz (4-1) allowed three hits, two walks and had three strikeouts over five innings. He has not given up a run in his three starts, all of which lasted five innings.

“My three starts have been a great team effort,” Pomeranz said. “We scored a lot of runs and the bullpen shut them down.”

Sean Doolittle, the third Oakland reliever, pitched the ninth for his third save and complete a four-hitter.

After the game, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said there is a good chance Doolittle will take over the closer’s role.

“It’s pretty cool,” Doolittle said.

Doolittle did see his streak of 30 straight appearances without allowing a walk end when Ryan Hanigan drew one with two outs in the ninth.

Former Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, acquired by Oakland from the Orioles in December, has allowed seven runs in 4 1-3 innings over his past six appearances.

Crisp hit a two-run double and John Jaso had an RBI single off Jake Odorizzi (2-4) as Oakland took a 3-0 lead in the second.

The AL West-leading Athletics have won 10 of 11, outscoring their opponents 74-18 over the stretch.

“You don’t do that by swinging at bad pitches,” Odorizzi said.

Crisp was replaced defensively by Craig Gentry in the bottom of the sixth because of neck soreness. He had started four straight games after missing seven with a neck strain.

Melvin expects Crisp to sit out Wednesday night’s game.

Odorizzi gave up three runs, four hits, five walks and struck out eight in 4 2-3 innings. The Rays (19-27) are eight games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season (66-96), which was their final season as the Devil Rays.

“Never say it can’t get any worse because whenever you utter those words, you’re going to find it out,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m looking more for the turning point. You never know how close you are to turning negative momentum to positive.”

Pomeranz worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third by getting a double play grounder from Desmond Jennings on a 3-2 pitch. Jennings also hit into an inning-ending double play with two on in the eighth.

“Those double pays are huge,” Pomeranz said.

Maddon challenged the very close out call on Jennings at first base in the third, which the umpires ruled would stand after a review that took 1 minute, 23 seconds.

NOTES: Oakland SS Jed Lowrie, who left Sunday’s game at Cleveland in the second because of a strained neck, was out of the starting lineup. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb (strained left oblique) will rejoin the rotation Thursday. … Athletics 2B Eric Sogard, removed Sunday in the eighth after fouling a ball off his knee, played. … Hanigan (sore right hamstring) was a defensive replacement in the ninth. … Oakland RHP Ryan Cook (strained right forearm) has been cleared to resume playing catch. … Athletics LHP Eric O’Flaherty (elbow ligament replacement surgery) threw 30 pitches in batting practice and will next throw in a simulated game. … Oakland C Derek Norris walked three times, including one on a 14-pitch at-bat in the fourth. … Oakland LHP Tommy Milone (1-3) and Tampa Bay LHP Erik Bedard (2-1) are Wednesday night’s scheduled starters.

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