Zobrist doubles in winner in seventh for red-hot Rays

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Andy Sonnanstine learned a few things from his previous outings against Oakland. The most important lesson was trusting himself.

Eric Hinske had three hits, including a home run, and Ben Zobrist doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Athletics 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Sonnanstine (12-6) beat an AL West team for the first time in five decisions, and won his second straight following a three-game losing streak as the Rays have spent all but two days in first place in the AL East since June 28.

"I didn't feel sharp the last time I pitched here," said Sonnanstine, who lost his two previous starts against the A's. "I wanted to be aggressive and stay aggressive. That really worked out. I feel like if I stick to my game plan it sets me up for success."

Sonnanstine lasted six innings, allowing two runs and six hits with a walk and six strikeouts, one shy of his season high. He's given up five runs in his last 19 1/3 innings (2.33 ERA) after allowing 14 in his previous 19 innings.

"Sony had really good stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "His last two outings are as good as I've seen him in a long time. He's always been a winner."

Sonnanstine became the quickest pitcher to 12 wins (119th game) in Rays history.

Carlos Pena hit a home run for the Rays, who maintained their three-game lead over the Boston Red Sox. The Rays have won four of five and 10 of 14.

"We just keep on playing," Pena said. "It's important to focus on the present. This is a young team but we've behaved maturely and it happened naturally. We're able to handle things."

Eric Patterson, who was recalled from Sacramento earlier Wednesday, drove in two runs for the A's, who fell to 7-22 since trading Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs. Patterson was part of the trade.

Mark Ellis and Bobby Crosby both had two hits for the A's, who were seven games over .500 and 3 1/2 behind the Red Sox in the wild card race when Harden was moved.

"We had first and third, nobody out, and don't score," A's manager Bob Geren said. "That's a big blow. We tried to force some contact there and push a run across and that's about it. It's difficult to win when you're not getting enough runs."

Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler both pitched a scoreless inning and Troy Percival worked the ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances. It was his 34th career save against the A's, his most against any team.

Justin Duchscherer (10-8) lost his third straight decision and remains winless in his last six starts. He gave up three runs and six hits with a walk and a career-high eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.

"Sometimes you make pitches and they just beat you," Duchscherer said. "Two solo home runs I didn't feel like it was going to beat me. I battled through it got into the seventh and had a little bit of an unfortunate bounce on the last hitter and that ended up costing us the game."

Duchscherer gave up two home runs in a game for the third time, and allowed only his 10th and 11th of the season. He allowed more than two earned runs in consecutive games for the first time.

Game notes
A's 1B Mike Sweeney (knee surgery) took part in pregame activities for the second straight day. ... A's OF Ryan Sweeney went on the DL with a sprained right thumb. ... The Rays are 32-0 when Percival enters a game in a save situation. ... Roland Arrojo recorded his 12th win in the Rays' 135th game in 1998. ... The A's have scored four or fewer runs in each of their last 15 games, a team record. ... Ellis is a career .345 hitter against the Rays, his best mark against any AL team.

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