Rays-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

The next time the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays meet, they could be facing off in the American League wild-card game.

For now, the Athletics can avenge their April sweep at the hands of the Rays by completing their own Sunday.

By winning the first two games of this series - and five of its last six overall - Oakland (77-58) has taken a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay for the first wild-card spot, which carries home-field advantage.

The A's won with timely hitting and good pitching Saturday as Coco Crisp's sixth-inning RBI single and eighth-inning solo homer provided the offense in a 2-1 victory after they had scored 38 runs in the previous five games.

Crisp, who had been 2 for his last 15, had three hits on Saturday and has five home runs in his last 10 games.

The Athletics have homered in 13 straight games - with 20 home runs during that stretch. They finished August with 35 home runs, third in the major leagues.

The Rays (75-59) might not make it to the postseason if they can't spark their offense. They've scored just 16 runs while losing six of seven and gone 58 innings without a home run.

"Offensively, we have to stir it up," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've pitched well and caught it but we haven't hit well. The offense has to pick it up. We've got a lot of it in place; we just need to get it going."

David DeJesus is 1 for 9 during the Rays' current three-game losing streak, and Yunel Escobar is 2 for 11.

Evan Longoria is mired in a somewhat longer slump. After homering in three consecutive games, the third baseman is 2 for 23 with eight strikeouts in his last six.

"There's no doubt I'm frustrated," Longoria said. "It seems I can't put it all together over a long period. I keep doing the same things but it's eluded me."

Longoria and the Rays will hope to find their power stroke against A.J. Griffin, who has struggled all year keeping the ball down.

Griffin (11-9, 3.94 ERA) has allowed a major league-worst 32 home runs, with 14 coming over his last eight starts.

Those problems were again magnified Monday, when he allowed two home runs and four runs overall in five innings, but he still got the win in Oakland's 8-6 victory over Detroit.

"I was just trying to battle and keep the ball down good," Griffin said. "It's good to win, a good battle. It felt like a playoff atmosphere."

Griffin did solve some of his control problems in the win with just one walk after issuing 15 over his previous three starts. He has faced Tampa Bay just once, allowing three runs in seven innings of a 4-3 Oakland victory on July 30, 2012.

Jamey Wright (2-2, 2.97) will make his first start since 2007 for Tampa Bay. The veteran right-hander has made 54 relief appearances this year and was rewarded for a strong August in which he allowed one run in 11 2-3 innings spanning nine outings.

He last appeared Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, throwing 19 pitches in 1 1-3 scoreless innings. Wright has gone three innings on two occasions this season and threw a season-high 45 pitches in one of them on May 24.

Wright faced one Oakland batter this season, hitting Brandon Moss with a pitch on April 19. After posting a 6.63 ERA in three starts versus the Athletics, he has a 0.61 ERA against them in 15 relief appearances.

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