The Oakland Athletics couldn’t add to their AL West lead, but they keep building plenty of momentum.
Dan Straily hopes he can contribute to that run after losing his last two starts.
The right-hander faces the Toronto Blue Jays for the first time since his major league debut Tuesday night when the A’s go for a fifth straight win.
Entering this three-game set with a six-game edge over second-place Texas - their largest division lead since Sept. 27, 2006 - the A’s (63-43) maintained that cushion with Monday’s 9-4 victory.
The Rangers rallied to defeat the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 earlier Monday.
“You keep trying to pile up the wins, add them up at the end and see where you’re at,” said manager Bob Melvin, whose team has matched its best record through 106 games since 1992 and is tied with Tampa Bay for the best record in the AL.
Oakland goes for its longest undefeated stretch since a six-game surge May 24-29 with Straily (6-4, 4.43 ERA) coming off back-to-back losses to the Angels. He had won a career-best five consecutive decisions prior to that.
“I wasn’t keeping it down,” said Straily, who was charged with five runs in 4 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 8-3 defeat. “I still got ahead, then they got to some balls, and obviously I left it too good. Just didn’t command it.”
That wasn’t the case the last time Tuesday’s starter Mark Buehrle (6-7, 4.50) took the ball for the Blue Jays (48-57). The veteran left-hander fanned a season-best nine and tossed a two-hitter in Thursday’s 4-0 win over Houston that helped Toronto end a season-worst seven-game skid.
It was Buehrle’s ninth career shutout, and first since a perfect game against Tampa Bay four seasons ago.
“I had everything working,” he told the Blue Jays’ official website. “I was making pitches when I had to, movement was good, keeping guys off balance. I’m not going to sit here and say it was one pitch that was making guys strike out a lot. I struck out multiple guys on certain pitches, but it was just one of those games that I had everything going for me.”
However, he’s struggled in 13 starts in Oakland, going 2-7 with a 4.45 ERA - all while with the Chicago White Sox.
Improving those numbers could be asking a lot as Buehrle will face an A’s team that’s won 24 of 30 at home and is scoring 5.4 runs per contest during a 7-2 run there.
Buehrle has never faced Yoenis Cespedes, who has back-to-back three-hit games and seven RBIs in the last two after coming up a double shy of the cycle Monday. The Home Run Derby champion’s solo shot in the eighth ended a career-high 25-game homerless streak.
“It’s not about the homer. I’ve started to feel better and everything is going to be fine,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “When I’m hitting well, I feel like I’m contributing my grain of sand, doing my part.”
AL player of the week Edwin Encarnacion is doing his part. After going 9 for 12 with two homers and eight RBIs as Toronto took three of four from the Astros over the weekend, he hit his third homer in four games Monday to move within one of reaching 30 for the second consecutive season.
Straily held Encarnacion hitless in three at-bats and threw six innings of one-run ball in a 5-4, 15-inning home win Aug. 3.