OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics hope they are poised for another spectacular September like the one that propelled them to an improbable AL West title over the Texas Rangers on the final day last season.
The Rangers arrive Monday for an important three-game series, clinging to a one-game division lead over Oakland with six meetings left.
Coco Crisp and Stephen Vogt homered, A.J. Griffin struck out seven in seven innings, and Oakland completed a three-game sweep of fellow playoff contender Tampa Bay with a 5-1 victory Sunday.
“This is what we look forward to, a chance to control our own destiny and get where we want to be, and that’s to win the division,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
The A’s are on a nice little roll again.
Oakland pulled off a pair of one-run wins before Sunday’s result against the Rays, who are right behind Oakland in the AL wild-card race.
“The games were a little more electric, definitely, playing against a good team, a scrappy team like Tampa and being in the situation we’re in alongside of them,” Crisp said. “They do bring the energy and playing against a team like that the atmosphere it has been a little bit more intense.”
After Crisp led off the bottom of the first with a home run, James Loney tied it with his own longball in the top of the second. Griffin (12-9) settled in after that to win his second straight outing following a four-start winless stretch in which he was 0-2.
Griffin allowed one run on five hits and walked one. He yielded his majors-leading 33rd home run, most since current pitching coach Curt Young gave up 38 in 1987.
The defense behind him made some crucial stops.
Wil Myers was thrown out at the plate to end the seventh trying for the tying run on a single by Desmond Jennings.
Griffin was there to congratulate catcher Vogt, who took Donaldson’s relay and tagged Myers on his second swipe after the baserunner tried to avoid Vogt and went over the bag. Donaldson said replay showed Vogt tagged him the first time.
“I knew the situation, the line drive was hit to my right and I froze on it. I should have gotten a better read on it,” Myers said. “I didn’t know where the ball was so I was just trying to avoid the tag. When you’re not scoring runs, things like that get magnified.”
Vogt then connected for his third home run in the bottom of the seventh, against the club that traded him to the A’s on April 5.
Oakland earned its first sweep in a series of three or more games since June 11-13 against the Yankees. The A’s have won six of seven and seven of nine following an 8-13 stretch from July 30-Aug. 23.
“We’re in a good groove right now and looking to keep that going,” Griffin said.
Tampa Bay missed another chance in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson led off with double, but fresh September additions Luke Scott and Delmon Young failed to deliver against Sean Doolittle.
The Rays swept the A’s in April, then Oakland returned the favor to leave the season series even — meaning a possible tiebreaker for the wild card would next go to intra-division records.
“I don’t want the game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of a potential one-game playoff. The skipper is scoreboard watching when it comes to Texas.
On a day when the typically sure-handed Rays struggled with the afternoon sun and committed two errors, they dropped their fourth straight. Tampa Bay has scored just five runs during the skid.
Oakland capitalized on the miscues.
Rays manager Joe Maddon chose to go with Jamey Wright as a spot starter over lefty Roberto Hernandez against the A’s left-heavy lineup.
Wright went 1 2-3 innings in his first start since 2007 with Texas, leaving with the game tied at 1 in the second. He allowed five of his nine batters to reach base.
Alex Torres (4-1) — the first of six Rays relievers — pitched 3 1-3 innings of relief, giving up a go-ahead RBI single to Brandon Moss in the third.
After leading the majors with an Oakland-record 13 doubles in August, Jed Lowrie started September with another in the fifth.
Crisp matched his career high with his 16th home run, his fifth this year leading off the game, 11th with the A’s and 13th for his career.
Is he ready for another strong September? The A’s went 17-11 over the final month of 2012.
Crisp laughed and said, “If I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t be playing baseball.”
NOTES: Wright became just the 19th Rays pitcher to start a game since 2008. … A’s RF Josh Reddick no longer has pain in his right wrist after getting an injection Wednesday. He hopes to start take some swings in the cage Monday and be eligible to return from the disabled list on schedule Sept. 10. “The way things are going there’s a decent chance he could be activated after 15 days,” Melvin said. … Oakland promoted four players from Triple-A Sacramento: LHP Pedro Figueroa, INFs Andy Parrino and Jemile Weeks and OF Michael Choice. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Choice, the A’s designated C Luke Montz for assignment. … The A’s raised $61,395 on their annual breast cancer awareness day, bringing their total raised since 1999 to more than $1.3 million.