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.
Designated hitter John Jaso said the Mariners "don't really want ... to get recognized as spoilers," but starter Blake Beavan (10-10, 4.64) will be looking to help Seattle do just that.
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.
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- Seattle Mariners