ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Niemann took a four-hitter into the ninth inning en route to winning his fifth consecutive decision and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 8-4 on Friday night.

Niemann (6-4) allowed four runs and seven hits over 8 2-3 innings. The right-hander was replaced by Kyle Farnsworth after giving up a pair of runs and three hits in the ninth. Niemann improved to 5-0 in eight starts since returning from a strained lower back on June 20.

Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman both had run-scoring doubles, and Matt Joyce hit an RBI single in the fifth that put the Rays up 4-0.

Coco Crisp and Hideki Matsui homered for the Athletics, who have lost 30 of their last 37 games away from home. Oakland entered hitting an AL-low .232 on the road.

Athletics shortstop Cliff Pennington was back in the starting lineup after missing two games because of Bell's palsy and tripled in four at-bats. He left Monday's game against Seattle because of the condition that can cause partial facial paralysis.

Niemann has won all three of his career starts against Oakland. He was looking for his first complete game since a two-hitter against Toronto on June 8, 2010.

Crisp cut the Oakland deficit to 4-2 with a two-run homer in the sixth. Tampa Bay responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning when Ben Zobrist drove in a pair on a single and B.J. Upton added a run-scoring single.

Upton also had an eighth-innng RBI triple.

Matsui hit a solo shot and Pennington had an RBI triple in the ninth.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded RBI grounder by Robinson Chirinos — that deflected off Guillermo Moscoso — with one out in the fourth. The Rays' rookie catcher has driven in seven runs over his last three games after having none in his first 11 big league games.

Moscoso (4-6) gave up four runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings.

Oakland right fielder David DeJesus, slowed by right thumb soreness, returned after missing the previous three games. He struck out with a runner on second with two outs in the fourth, and wound up 1 for 4.

NOTES: Matsui extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a fourth-inning single. ... Tampa Bay C John Jaso (strained right oblique) has resumed batting practice. ... Oakland RHP Brandon McCarthy (4-5), Saturday's scheduled starter, is 3-0 with a 3.70 ERA in four outings since the All-Star break. ... Rays rookie RHP Alex Cobb (3-1) will face Oakland for the first time Saturday. ... Texas senior adviser Tom Giordano, who played for the 1953 Philadelphia Athletics, was at the game.




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