ANAHEIM -- Next up for the Rays is a trip to Oakland, where they will meet the A's at McAfee Coliseum, the site of their worst record in any American League park -- an 8-34 mark.
So what's the problem?When told of the differential in Oakland, Rocco Baldelli looked surprised.
"I wouldn't have guessed that, I would have guessed Minnesota," Baldelli said. Baldelli called Oakland an "awkward place to play." "You never feel comfortable out there," Baldelli said. "And every time you go out there, you're usually facing some top-notch pitching." Rays manager Joe Maddon buys into the pitching aspect but concedes it is an odd ballpark. "If you had to look for a reason, I would say pitching," Maddon said. "In that ballpark, you have to hit line drives. I think, overall, it's a different hitting element than [Tropicana Field]. I think there's a depth perception thing about that place. Tremendously huge [foul areas] -- if you win a batting title in Oakland, that's really impressive. All these foul balls in Oakland can't be caught anywhere else." Carl Crawford said he has no idea why the Rays have struggled in Oakland. "I can't even begin to tell you why we have a bad record there," Crawford said. "We just play the same like we do everywhere else. I guess it's just one of those teams that have our number. ... They've just always had one of those teams that plays until the end, like they always come back and get us at the end." Carlos Pena believes it all comes down to pure coincidence. "It's not something where you go in there and think you have to fight against some unseen force," Pena said. "They do have a big foul territory. And day and night games play differently. But I don't think it works to their advantage. They still have to play in the same conditions." 'Major League' per Kruk: Cleveland celebrated the movie "Major League" this week by handing out glasses like those worn by pitcher Rick Vaughn, the hard-throwing, wild pitcher played by actor Charlie Sheen. So ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" crew donned the glasses for a segment on Thursday, and analyst John Kruk picked characters from today's Major Leagues who could fill the roles of those in the movie Major League. And Kruk picked Maddon as manager Lou Brown. Maddon smiled when told about the segment, but he didn't seem exactly flattered. "He was very crusty," said Maddon of Brown. "I can't do the moustache. But I'll take it. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don't exactly know how this works in this regard. I don't know. It's fun stuff." Shields a horse: James Shields will start Friday night's game against the A's after pitching the best game of his young career Sunday, when he went eight innings, allowed two runs and struck out 12 Indians. Given Shields' makeup and body, Maddon believes the right-hander can pitch 200-plus innings per year. "I totally believe that," Maddon said. "I think he can be a dependable, 200-inning starter for many years. From our perspective, just watching him, keeping our eye on him -- he is a tough guy." Having a 200-plus-innings-per-year pitcher is a huge boost to the overall welfare of the staff. "Tremendously important," Maddon said. "We'd like to get several of those guys. That just speaks to getting deeper in the game. Shorten the game from that perspective. That, in and of itself, makes your bullpen better. Guys like that, who can suck up 200 innings and pitch at a high level, make your bullpen all of a sudden look a lot better. This and that: The Rays' 109 runs are the team's most after 21 games and rank second to the Yankees (120) in the American League. ... The Rays have also surrendered the most runs in the Major Leagues, with 135. ... Since making his Major League debut on Aug. 29, Delmon Young has hit safely in 39 of 51 games. Up next: The Rays travel to Oakland to begin a three-game weekend series against the A's in a Friday night contest at 10:05 ET. Shields will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Chad Gaudin.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.