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TB@LAA: Bedard strikes out five over 5 2/3 innings

Erik Bedard will try to add to his string of strong starts in the second game of the Rays' series against Oakland on Wednesday, and maybe even pitch deeper into the game.

Bedard hasn't allowed more than one earned run in each of his last four starts, stretching back to April 29 at Boston. But he also hasn't pitched more than six innings in any of those starts, or in any outing this season.

Manager Joe Maddon said it's taken some time for Bedard to get back into a groove after he was released and subsequently re-signed by the Rays in late March, but that he's getting stronger every start.

"He's kind of on a roll," Maddon said before Tuesday's series opener. "Now that he's getting back on a more regular schedule, I think his arm strength's getting better. He has pitch ability -- he knows what he's doing out there. I really envision him getting better and better."

In his last start against the Angels on the Rays' recent road trip, Bedard went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two unearned runs on Thursday. But he took a no-decision when Tampa Bay blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning, with Brad Boxberger giving up a walkoff three-run home run to Mike Trout.

He potentially could have gone more innings, but James Loney committed a two-out error in the sixth inning that led Maddon to pull Bedard for a better matchup.

"Had he been able to get through that inning in Anaheim, which he should have -- he was through it -- he could have pitched pretty deeply into that game based on just pure arm strength," Maddon said.

On Wednesday, Bedard, who is now 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA on the season, will face off against A's lefty Tommy Milone, who is 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA. But Milone has also been pitching well of late, having allowed just one earned run in 14 innings over his last two starts, after surrendering 10 runs in his previous 10 2/3 innings.

Those last two starts came at home, where Milone has been much better than he has on the road. He's 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts in Oakland this year and 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in four outings away from the Coliseum.

Milone most recently took a no-decision after limiting the White Sox to one run on five hits over six innings, walking none and striking out four on May 14.

"Fastball inside -- I was really able to locate it and go upstairs when I needed to," Milone said after the game. "Just trying to keep them off-balance and not so predictable. I know teams know me by now. They know I throw the changeup a lot, so I'm trying to use my fastball as much as possible."

In three career starts against the Rays, Milone is 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA, including a loss in his only start against them last year in St. Petersburg.

Rays: Myers working on his hitting
Wil Myers said he has identified a hole in his hitting approach, and he and Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton have been working to correct it.

"It was something last year that I wasn't doing. This year, too," Myers said. "It's something me and Derek were looking at on video today, and it looks small, but it's kind of a major thing."

Myers has been having some difficulties at the plate this season after his breakout rookie campaign, with his average sitting at .240 after Tuesday's game. But he said he thinks people forget that he had his struggles last year, too -- both early in the year with Triple-A Durham and in the Major Leagues in August.

He also said that his issues this year and last year are completely different.

"Last year, it was really just swinging at bad pitches," Myers said. "Now it's kind of swinging at bad pitches, missing them, missing my pitches, and ... a couple of other mechanical things."

Myers didn't disclose the details of the issue -- only that it's being addressed.

Maddon didn't go into specifics, either. But he did praise the technology which allows video -- of Myers' at-bats, for example -- to be sent straight to his iPad for him to study.

A's: Lowrie remains day to day with neck strain
The A's began their three-game road set with the Rays without shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was held out of Tuesday's lineup with a neck strain he suffered Sunday in Cleveland.

Nick Punto got the start at shortstop in Lowrie's stead.

Lowrie missed one game last year with the same issue, and he said Tuesday that he was feeling better, leaving open the possibility of returning to the field for Wednesday evening's contest.

The veteran infielder went 7-for-20 (.350) against the Rays last year, but is a .189 career hitter against Tampa Bay and a .180 hitter at Tropicana Field.

Worth noting
• Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings returned from the bereavement list on Tuesday and made the start in center field. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Gomes was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Jennings, who had missed the previous two games.

• This Rays homestand against the A's and Red Sox is the first time the Rays have had a homestand against two or more defending division champions since September of 2012. They went 4-2 against the Yankees and Rangers, winning each series 2-1.

• This is the only time this season Oakland will come to Tampa Bay. The last time the A's visited the Rays, in April of last season, the Rays swept Oakland in a three-game set. The A's swept the series in Oakland in 2013.

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