Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson has three starts to his name all season along with 11 strikeouts. A's right-hander Sonny Gray made five starts in the month of July alone. He has 128 strikeouts on the season.
The two will meet Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, having nearly opposite seasons to this point. While Gray is coming off of American League Pitcher of the Month honors for July, Hellickson is still looking to throw at least five innings for the first time this season. The right-hander had arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow in March and is 0-1 in his three starts.
"I want him to go deeper into games, absolutely. I think under a different set of circumstances he probably would have by now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been looking at pitch usage and what he's doing and trying to give him some good information to take it out on the field and see how it plays out … more than me trusting him, he's got to trust himself. That's what it comes down to."
Hellickson said physically he feels good, but that he's struggled to throw strikes. He's found success with his velocity and his changeup, but there's no substitute for game experience.
"I'm healthy, I feel strong, but you can't emulate coming out to a big league game," Hellickson said. "I haven't pitched well. I haven't really given [Maddon] a reason to leave me out there. Obviously I'd like to get a chance to work out of my own jams and go deeper in the game."
Gray, on the other hand, hasn't pitched fewer than six innings since June 28 in Miami, and he has a 12-4 record with a 2.59 ERA on the season.
The 24-year-old, who compiled a 5-0 record with a 1.03 ERA in July, already took home AL Pitcher of the Month honors in April, making him the first A's pitcher to win it twice in a single season since Barry Zito did it in August and September of 2001.
Manger Bob Melvin praised his youngster.
"To win it once during a season is quite the achievement, twice even more so obviously," Melvin said. "Based on the numbers, not surprised. Certainly, congratulations to him."
Gray said the success came as a result of simplifying the game and trusting his stuff.
"This last month I got back to what got me here and the reasons I've been so successful and started doing those things again," Gray said. "Just being competitive, attacking guys and not trying to trick people, just make pitches."
A's: Lowrie given rest with bruised finger
Melvin wouldn't let on whether or not shortstop Jed Lowrie (bruised right index finger) would be available off the bench Tuesday night.
Lowrie ended up not playing, a night after taking a ball off the finger in the fourth inning. He stayed in for the rest of that game, which the A's won in 10 innings Monday night.
On Tuesday, Eric Sogard replaced Lowrie, who his hitting .245 with 28 doubles and 42 RBIs on the season.
Rays: Boxberger dominating against lefties
Right-hander Brad Boxberger has stifled left-handed hitters the past two months, retiring 43 in a row entering Wednesday.
Lefties have a .077 average against him, which is best in the Majors among qualifiers. The last time he gave up a hit to a lefty was May 20.
"I've always liked facing lefties," Boxberger said, "just because I've been able to use what I want to use against them."
• On Wednesday, the Rays will be playing their 29th game of the past 35 against a team over .500. They then play seven straight against sub-.500 teams and then 28 of 32 against above-.500 teams.
• Coco Crisp was the A's designated hitter Tuesday night, returning to the lineup for the first time in 10 days from ongoing neck soreness. Melvin expects him to return to center field Wednesday.
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.