Frank Thomas looks to continue his torrid hitting and help the Oakland Athletics on their march toward the AL West title when they open a four-game home series against the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
Oakland (86-62) reduced its magic number for clinching the division to seven with a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep.
Thomas was the catalyst for the second straight day. He burned his former team with a go-ahead, three-run homer in the fourth inning after his two-run shot helped the Athletics rally from a 4-1 deficit in Saturday’s 7-4 victory.
“It’s ridiculous,” A’s third baseman Eric Chavez said about Thomas. “Absolutely ridiculous. It’s so much fun watching him from the on-deck circle. I just sit back and become a fan just like everybody else.”
Thomas batted .178 through his first 34 games, but is carrying Oakland down the stretch. He’s 21-for-61 (.344) with 10 homers and 26 RBIs in 15 games in September.
“After the start I had, it feels good just to be sitting here at the end of the season,” Thomas said. “I found my swing and found my game.”
Thomas has hit 42 of his 485 career homers against the Indians (69-79), whom he faced regularly during his days with Chicago. Thomas, however, is hitting .226 with seven homers in 36 games against Cleveland over the last four years.
The 38-year-old slugger is 2-for-9 in his career against Indians starter Jake Westbrook (12-10, 4.27 ERA).
Oakland is a major league-best 30-12 since the start of August, and its 3.84 ERA in that stretch is tied with Detroit for second-best in the AL.
Dan Haren (14-11, 3.79) has been a big part of the pitching staff’s success. He’s 8-2 with a 3.33 ERA over his last 10 starts, and will be trying for his career-high 15th win Monday.
Haren turned in one of his best efforts of the season Wednesday at Minnesota, winning his second straight start by allowing only three singles over eight innings in a 1-0 victory.
“I threw strikes, got ahead of guys, and everything was down,” Haren said. “I was determined not to leave anything up.”
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the Indians.
Oakland has won 11 of its last 15 home games against Cleveland, which is without injured slugger Travis Hafner. The A’s are 3-2 against the Indians this year.
“Hafner is out, but they still have a pretty good lineup with Victor Martinez, (Grady) Sizemore and (Casey) Blake,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “When we played them here at home (in May), they were leading the world in hitting.”
The Indians completed a sloppy 1-5 homestand with a 6-1 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. They committed three errors in the loss and had 10 miscues over the six games.
Cleveland’s 113 errors are the second-most in the AL.
“Our infield defense at times this year has been inexcusable,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Westbrook is 1-3 with a 2.49 ERA at McAfee Coliseum in four starts. The Indians have scored a total of six runs in those outings.
The right-hander is 5-3 with a 4.19 ERA over his last eight starts.