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A's sweep Rays, look ahead to Rangers series

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Just minutes after completing a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay with a 5-1 victory Sunday, the surging Oakland A's turned their attention to their next test.

The A's pulled to within one game of first-place Texas in the American League West, and the Rangers will be at the O.co Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the start of a three-game set.

"This is what we look forward to," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We've got a chance right now to control our own destiny and hopefully get where we want to be, and obviously that's to win the division."

Getting solo home runs from Coco Crisp and Stephen Vogt and seven solid innings from right-hander A.J. Griffin, the defending AL West champions took another step in that direction Sunday.

The A's, who have won six of their past seven games, strengthened their hold on the AL's first wild-card spot, moving 2 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay. Now they'll try to catch and pass the Rangers.

"We feel like we've been playing good ball, and we're excited to get to the ball park every day," Griffin said. "We're feeling good. We're in a good groove right now, and we're looking to keep that going."

The reeling Rays fell 5 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East. In the wild-card race, their lead for the second spot is down to three games over Baltimore.

The Rays scored just five runs in three games against the A's and have lost four straight and seven of their past eight games. But Rays manager Joe Maddon said this is no time to panic.

"We're going to be fine," Maddon said. "We're going to play well. We're going to come back. This stuff happens during the course of a major-league season. You have to fight your way through it. You stay with your guys."

Griffin (12-9) allowed just one run on five hits. He struck out seven and walked one. The only run he gave up came on James Loney's towering home run to right-center in the second inning. The home run was the 33rd that Griffin has allowed this season, the most in the major leagues.

"I feel like the best thing I did was, after Loney hit that home run, I didn't let it affect me," Griffin said. "I stayed under control and just kept trying to execute my game plan instead of letting that affect me, and I feel like I'd been letting that affect me way too much lately."

Maddon turned Sunday's game over to his bullpen from the outset. He used seven pitchers, changing pitchers more often than he would in an early spring training game.

Rays right-hander Jamey Wright made his first start since Aug. 25, 2007, against Seattle when he played for the Texas Rangers. He pitched just 1 2/3 innings Sunday, allowing one run and three hits, including Crisp's home run. Next up, lefty Alex Torres, who gave up an unearned run over 3 1/3 innings. Right-hander Brandon Gomes blanked the A's for two-thirds of an inning, and lefty Wesley Wright struck out the only batter he faced.

Lefty Jake McGee came on in the seventh and gave up one run on Vogt's blast over two-thirds of an inning. Right-hander Josh Lueke gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning, and lefty Cesar Ramos pitched one-third of an inning.

"It was great," Maddon said of his bullpen's collective effort.

Crisp gave the A's a quick 1-0 advantage, leading off the game with a solo home run to right field off Wright. It was Crisp's 16th home run of the season, matching his career high. It was also his fifth leadoff home run of the season and 13th of his career.

Tampa Bay pulled even in the top of the second on Loney's blast.

The A's took a 2-1 lead in the third, scoring an unearned run off Torres. With one out, Jed Lowrie dropped a bunt down the third-base line for a single and wound up on third base when Evan Longoria threw wildly to first for a two-base error. With the Rays' infield drawn in, Brandon Moss grounded an RBI single to right.

The Rays came close to pulling even again in the seventh. After Wil Myers ripped a two-out double, Desmond Jennings lined a single to left. Myers got a late jump, and it cost him as the A's nailed him at home plate on a relay from left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to Donaldson to Vogt.

"I froze on it," Myers said. "I should have had a better read."

Cespedes' throw was a bit off-line, so Donaldson cut it off and still had plenty of time to throw home.

"That was a huge heads-up play by J.D., knowing we had enough time to do that, and he gave me a good throw to handle," Vogt said.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Vogt, a former Ray, crushed a solo home run off McGee into the right-field seats, giving the A's a 3-1 lead. The A's added two runs in the eighth.

NOTES: The A's added four players from Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday when major-league rosters were expanded: outfielder Michael Choice, infielders Jemile Weeks and Andy Parrino and left-handed reliever Pedro Figueroa. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Choice, the A's designated minor-league catcher Luke Montz for assignment. ... The Rays selected OF Delmon Young from Double-A Montgomery, recalled Lueke and C Chris Gimenez from Triple-A Durham and reinstated OF/DH Luke Scott from the disabled list. ... Rays LHP Matt Moore (left elbow soreness), who has been on the DL since July 31, will start Tuesday against the Angels.
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