OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — Cliff Pennington had three hits to remain the hottest hitter in the major leagues since the All-Star break, Brandon McCarthy pitched eight innings and the Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 on Tuesday night.

Conor Jackson went 3 for 4 and Hideki Matsui added an RBI double as Oakland won for the third time in four games. The A’s are 7-4 since the break.

Ben Zobrist homered and Johnny Damon hit his 506th double to tie Babe Ruth for 47th on baseball’s all-time list but the Rays continued to struggle with men on base and lost for the 10th time in 14 games.

Pennington singled twice and had an RBI double in the sixth, extending his career-high hitting streak to 10 games. He raised his average to .500 (18 for 36) since the All-Star break.

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That’s been a big factor in the A’s recent success. Oakland has scored four or more runs in each of its last six games—the club’s longest such streak of the season.

McCarthy hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in his previous three starts and was knocked around by Detroit in his most recent outing on July 20.

The lanky right-hander, who missed more than six weeks while on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his right scapula, rebounded nicely against Tampa Bay. McCarthy (3-5) pitched with runners on base in each of the first six innings but worked out of trouble each time to win for only the second time in his last 12 starts.

McCarthy, who struck out three and walked two, lost his shutout bid with one out in the seventh when Zobrist homered for the second straight game, but retired the next two batters.

Grant Balfour pitched the ninth to complete the seven-hitter.

Tampa Bay starter David Price (9-9) allowed four runs over six innings and walked four—two of which scored. The left-hander is 1-3 with two no-decisions over his last six starts.

Scott Sizemore scored on Jemile Weeks’ sacrifice fly in the third, while David DeJesus drove in Josh Willingham with a sacrifice fly against Price in the fourth.

Pennington made it 3-0 when he singled leading off the fifth and scored on Matsui’s double to right-center, then doubled in Sizemore in the sixth.

Kurt Suzuki added a two-run double in the eighth.

The Rays stranded eight runners and are 1 for 20 with runners in scoring position during the first two games of this four-game series.

Zobrist walked his first two at-bats and flied out to right before homering in the eighth. It was the fourth home run allowed by McCarthy this season.

Notes: It was the 704th consecutive game Tampa Bay has started a pitcher younger than 30 years old, tying a major league record set by the Washington Senators from, 1913-17. The Rays will break the mark Wednesday when 29-year-old James Shields takes the mound. … Tampa Bay optioned LHP Cesar Ramos to Triple-A Durham and recalled RHP Jay Buente. Buente relieved Price in the seventh. … Matsui started in left field for a second straight game while Willingham rested his sore neck. Willingham, who received a cortisone shot after Monday night’s game, was the DH.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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