The Oakland Athletics are running out of time to catch the AL West leaders. Still, a series against the division-worst Seattle Mariners could help the A's move closer to their first playoff berth in six seasons.
Oakland goes for a fifth straight victory over Seattle on Friday night when it begins a season-ending six-game homestand.
After splitting a four-game set with West-leading Texas, the A's (88-68) return to the Bay Area four back of the division lead with six games remaining, including the final three next week against the Rangers.
"It's the end of a long (10-game) trip," manager Bob Melvin said Thursday after a 9-7 loss to Texas. "Now we go back home for the final six, and we're still in it."
The A's, who hold the second wild-card spot, received some help from Seattle (73-83) in that race later Thursday when the Mariners defeated the Los Angeles Angels 9-4. That kept Oakland's lead on the Angels at two, while it trails Baltimore by a game for the top wild-card berth.
"We can't rely on L.A. to lose and we can't rely on Texas to fall back," said A's outfielder Josh Reddick , who has a career-high 31 homers after going deep twice Thursday.
Oakland could put pressure on those clubs if rookie A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.80 ERA) can rebound from a couple of rough outings.
The A's have won 10 of the right-hander's 13 starts since he was called up in late June, but Griffin has a 9.00 ERA in his last two starts - failing to get through the fifth inning in either - after posting a 1.94 ERA in his first 11 major league appearances.
Griffin threw 103 pitches and left after 4 1-3 in Sunday's 5-4 road win over the New York Yankees .
"We're a little reluctant to let these guys go more than 105 pitches, so at that point in time they just worked him a little to get him out of the game," Melvin told the Athletics' official website.
Griffin needed 108 pitches to get through 5 1-3 innings of a 6-1 victory at Seattle on Sept. 7.
The right-hander has yielded two total runs in his last two outings - both versus Texas - and is 7-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 12 starts since a one-month demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
"The hugest thing he has improved upon is maintaining his arm slot and maintaining the same delivery, no matter whether he's throwing a fastball or throwing a curveball or throwing a slider," Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis told the team's official website.
In his lone appearance against Oakland this season, Beavan allowed three runs in seven innings of a 5-3 home win April 15.
Reddick, 1 for 9 with a homer off Beavan, is 11 for 28 (.393) with two homers in seven home games versus Seattle this season.
Rookie Yoenis Cespedes could be another tough out, as he leads the club with five homers and 11 RBIs against the Mariners despite hitting .200.
Justin Smoak , who is batting .432 (19 for 44) with five homers in his last 12 games, is 5 for 57 off Oakland pitching this season, but two of those hits left the park.
No other Mariner has more than one homer against the A's in 2012.
|September 15, 2012||Casper Wells||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 31, 2012||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained groin|
|August 25, 2012||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Sore groin|
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||15-Day DL||Strained left groin muscle|
|August 13, 2012||Mike Carp||15-Day DL||Strained left groin muscle|
|August 06, 2012||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|September 25, 2012||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Eye infections|
|September 19, 2012||Brett Anderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right oblique|
|September 05, 2012||Brandon McCarthy||Day-to-Day||Left game - head injury|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||60-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 18, 2012||Jordan Norberto||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Oakland manager Bob Melvin turned off the Angels-Rangers game before taking the field with his Athletics. He swears he's no scoreboard watcher in September - what's the point?
Oakland has control of its own playoff hopes in the season's final week, anyway.
"It's tunnel vision, if you will," outfielder Jonny Gomes said of his skipper's stand. "I 100 percent buy it."
Stephen Drew hit a two-run homer, Coco Crisp had a leadoff shot and the A's gained ground on the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West with an 8-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
Oakland trails the two-time defending AL champions by three games with five to play. The Rangers lost 7-4 at home to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, and Texas finishes the season with three games in Oakland starting Monday.
Josh Donaldson had a two-run single in a four-run seventh and A.J. Griffin (7-1) received ample support as the A's stayed two games ahead of the Angels in the race for the second wild card. Tampa Bay fell three games back after losing to the Chicago White Sox.
Oakland (89-68) has a magic number of four to clinch the club's first playoff berth since being swept by the Tigers in the 2006 AL championship series.
Eventually, Melvin heard chatter in the dugout as the other scores were posted on the outfield wall.
"I just don't like the emotional rollercoaster," Melvin said.
The A's won six months to the day after these clubs kicked off the 2012 schedule in Tokyo - and Oakland's opening-day starter, Brandon McCarthy , was back with the team just more than three weeks after undergoing brain surgery following a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Erick Aybar that struck him on the right side of the head.
McCarthy plans to stick around through the season's last homestand, and it's primed to be quite a final five games.
Melvin waited to post a lineup until after watching Crisp go through pregame activities considering the leadoff man had missed nine straight starts and 10 of 11 because of an eye infection.
Apparently, he saw the ball just fine when he sent a 3-2 pitch from starter Blake Beavan (10-11) over the right-field wall for his 11th home run. It was Crisp's fourth leadoff shot this year and the eighth of his career.
Crisp finished 3 for 5 and also made a perfect slide to score an insurance run in the fifth on a passed ball. He is still dealing with blurry vision in both eyes and some double vision but wants to do anything he can to help get the A's into the playoffs.
"More than I was expecting," said Crisp, who arrived in time for batting practice after a doctor's appointment.
Yoenis Cespedes drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh and made a diving catch on a liner to left-center in the eighth to rob Jesus Montero of a hit.
Trayvon Robinson followed Crisp's homer with a tying drive in the second, then Drew responded with his fifth homer since joining the A's from Arizona on Aug. 20 and seventh overall.
Michael Saunders also homered for Seattle, which snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday in Anaheim but didn't do enough in this one for Beavan.
"Beavan was off tonight," manager Eric Wedge said. "There were a lot of hard outs too, he was living on the edge there. Then later we broke down defensively."
Griffin, one of five rookies in the rotation, allowed one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two. Griffin was winless in his previous two starts after winning his first six decisions.
Now, Griffin is set up to pitch the regular-season finale against the Rangers in what could have huge postseason implications.
"That's the fun part of the business, you get to pitch in games that matter, especially this time of year," he said.
Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was held out of the lineup a day after crashing into the wall to make a catch against the Angels. He banged his wrist, shoulder and head on the play, but said he was fine Friday.
"I don't have anything, just a little stiff in my neck. It's nothing major," said Gutierrez, who hopes to play Saturday. "I hit it pretty good, the wall."
Wedge said he expects Gutierrez to play the final five games of the season.
NOTES: Mariners ace Felix Hernandez said he plans to play for Venezuela in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. A spring program for him will be determined after the season. ... The A's clinched the season series (10-7) after losing last year's season series 10-9. ... A's LHP Brett Anderson , who strained his right oblique after a strong return from last year's Tommy John surgery, could still be back if the team makes the playoffs. ... Gomes, who grew up in nearby Petaluma and assisted the Little League World Series squad from his hometown, received the 2012 Dave Stewart Community Service Award. "I think it should be in the job description or should be in the title of being a professional athlete," Gomes said. "I think you have so many avenues, once you get to the top, to be able to help people out." ... Seattle has 12 errors in its last 13 games, going 4-9. ... RHP Dan Straily (2-1) pitches Saturday for the A's against LHP Jason Vargas (14-11).