Oakland is counting on right-hander Paul Blackburn to continue his hot start as he takes the mound when the reeling Athletics host the Tampa Bay Rays in the second contest of a three-game series on Tuesday night.

Oakland has lost four straight games and five of its past six.

Blackburn (3-0, 1.35 ERA) will try for his career-high fourth win of the season. He’s been impressive in carving out a spot in the A’s rotation after going 1-4 with a 5.87 ERA in nine starts last season.

In his most recent start, Blackburn held the San Francisco Giants to three hits and struck out four in five innings of shutout ball to earn the win in Oakland’s 1-0 victory on Wednesday.

“I think we’re all aware that this Paul Blackburn is one we could kind of project to be able to have success at the major league level,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “And to see it happening now, it should feel good not only for Paul but for us as an organization.”

Blackburn, who has allowed just three runs on 14 hits with 18 strikeouts and two walks in 20 innings this season, picked up his first win of the year when he dominated the Rays during a 13-2 win on April 11.

Blackburn allowed just three hits, struck out seven and walked one as he held Tampa Bay scoreless for five innings in his first appearance against the Rays in his career.

The Rays likely will counter with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who would make his season debut after being sidelined with a groin injury. Yarbrough threw 59 pitches over 2 2/3 innings at Triple-A Durham on Thursday and didn’t suffer any setbacks, according to Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash.

Yarbrough, who went 9-7 last year with a 5.11 ERA and 117 strikeouts and 27 walks in 155 innings, hasn’t pitched against Oakland since 2019. He is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA lifetime in 13 2/3 innings against the A’s.

Tampa Bay had no trouble in Monday’s series opener, a 6-1 win that ended the Rays’ two-game slide.

Yandy Diaz homered and scored two runs, Manuel Margot had three hits, including two doubles, and starter Drew Rasmussen (2-1) allowed just one run on one hit over five innings.

The win was a welcomed start to the Rays’ 10-game trip after a mediocre homestand.

“We just went 5-4 on the homestand, and that’s not what we’re shooting for,” Cash said. “We need to find a way to get on a run and get the offense going and give the pitchers some breathing room a little bit.”

The Rays scored six runs in the first five innings Monday against Oakland starter Daulton Jefferies (1-4), who allowed six earned runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts and no walks in five innings before being pulled for Domingo Acevedo.

Oakland recorded just two hits — singles by Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder.

–Field Level Media