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BAL@TB: Hernandez strikes out seven in 6 2/3 innings

It's been a long time since Roberto Hernandez has won a game in the Majors Leagues.

How long exactly?

The last time the right-hander was the winning pitcher was way back on Sept. 20, 2011, when he was still known as Fausto Carmona. That's a drought of 578 days.

Hernandez will try to end that slide Sunday when he takes the mound for the Rays as they try to sweep the American League West-leading A's.

In his last start, the 32-year-old fell to the Orioles after tossing 5 1/3 innings and allowing five earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. Rays manager Joe Maddon has been impressed with Hernandez's effort so far this year, but thinks he needs to use his sinker more to cut back on the fly balls he has served up.

"Ball in the air a little bit too much," Maddon said. "I think if he gets the ball on the ground more consistently, you're going to see him pitch deeper into the game with less runs. He has struck some people out, too, which he's not really a strikeout kind of a guy. But he's been able to miss some bats. I think the whole package [of] what he's doing is very good."

Trying to salvage the series for the A's with a win on Sunday will be Tommy Milone. The left-hander has won all three of his starts this season, surrendering eight runs over 18 2/3 innings. In his last outing, Milone beat the Astros by pitching 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs.

"Everything was working," Milone said after the game. "I felt like no matter what pitch was put down, I was able to throw it for a strike. I feel like, especially after the first inning, I was able to pound the zone and get them out of there early and keep the team in the game."

Rays: Loney clicking at the plate

While the Rays have won three of their last four games, James Loney has raised his average from .167 to .286.

Before a 0-for-3 night at the plate on Saturday, the Rays' first baseman had gone 7-for-9 with a walk.

"He's got power, there's no question about that. I think historically, we've talked about, a lot of people have tried to pull it out of him," Maddon said. "But for me, I'd rather him just go out there and hit like he normally would and have the power just show up. I think that's what's going to happen. Right now, he's on a nice hot streak, hitting a lot of line drives, using the whole field also. ... He just has a really good look about him right now."

A's: Cespedes' injured hand improving

Yoenis Cespedes, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 28, swung a bat Saturday for the first time since he injured his left hand a week ago, and A's manager Bob Melvin admitted he was "personally surprised at how well things went."

"He just took some dry swings today," Melvin explained, "but he was encouraged. Maybe (Sunday) he'll hit off a tee and after that a little batting practice."

Most of Cespedes' swings were one-handed, first with a fungo bat, then with a regular bat, but he also took about five swings with both hands.

If he continues to progress, he could take batting practice next week when the A's are in Boston. Cespedes has been sidelined since April 13 because of a strained muscle in his left hand.

Worth noting

• The A's have allowed three runs or fewer in 11 of their first 17 games.

• Despite edging out the A's on Saturday, the Rays ended their streak of scoring six or more runs in consecutive games at three. Comments