A’s sweep Rays, closing in on AL West lead

Oakland, CA – No better way to begin the month of September. These past two weeks have felt like playoff baseball. But for the A’s, they have only one thing on their mind and that’s to reclaim first place in their division.

“Scoreboard watching tends to take place around this time, I try not to get caught up in that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I pretty much watch one score when it goes up and that’s the Texas score.”

It’s hard not to see Oakland make a strong push for the pennant race after sweeping the Rays 5-1 in the series finale. They are now within one game of the Rangers who they face in a three-game series tomorrow. After today’s win the A’s are 2 1/2 games ahead of Tampa in the Wild Card spot.

“I don’t want the [Wild Card] game,” said Melvin. “You try not to get too caught up in it but you can’t help it. Everybody is, and once you get into September, it feels like the finish line is in sight.”

Both Coco Crisp and Stephen Vogt went deep behind a good day of pitching from A.J. Griffin. Crisp matched a season-high with his sixteenth home run in the first giving the A’s a 1-0 lead. It was his second home run in the past two games.

“No,” Coco replied when asked if he’s playing his best baseball after tying his career-high. “I have 17 stolen bases. I don’t care about home runs, if they go, they go. I’m grateful it’s a home run, but… it is what it is.”

James Loney tied the game in the second with a long ball to right field. That was the only run scored off Griffin. Through seven innings, he allowed five hits, one walk and struck out seven. A.J. recorded his second straight win after being winless in four previous starts.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” said Griffin. “The results haven’t been there, trying to become a pitcher I’m not, like a power-pitcher type thing. Today [pitching coach Curt Young] and I found some stuff mechanically, keeping my head on line a bit more, and that helped tremendously. I felt I could execute my pitches and get the ball where I needed it more.”

Oakland took advantage of the errors that plagued the Rays today. Evan Longoria over threw Jed Lowrie’s infield bunt to first base for the out. Lowrie then advanced to third, and was scored in on Brandon Moss’ single to right field in the third.

Tampa tried to rally back in the seventh but had no luck against the A’s dominant defense. With one runner on at second and two outs, Desmond Jennings hit a single to left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes whew threw toward home plate.

Josh Dondalson came off third to catch the ball above the mound. He then fired a bullet to catcher Vogt who tagged Will Myers twice at home plate. Making sure home plate umpire Tony Randazzo called the out.

“I knew the situation, the line drive was hit to my right and I froze,” Myers said. “I should have gotten a better read on it. I didn’t know where the ball was, so I was just trying to avoid the tag. When your not scoring runs, things like that get magnified.”

“I knew he was nowhere near the plate and I had time to go back and get him,” said Stephen. “If that’s a play where he slides in and he’s at the plate, I’m not going to act like I tagged him the first time. So fortunately, he was well off the plate and I had time to go back and tag him.”

Vogt homered in the seventh and Oakland scored two more runs in the eighth. With no starter assigned, Jamey Wright came out of Tampa’s bullpen to make his first start since August 25, 2007 with the Texas Rangers. His outing lasted 1 2/3 innings before the bullpen took over. Wright allowed a leadoff home run to Crisp and two singles. He walked two and struck out one.

“It’s where it all starts with us,” Bob said. “The starters, if they can get deep in games, going against a staff like they have over there, you know your not going to score a ton of runs. The whole series, up until the last inning of this game, felt like a couple of runners on and you don’t know where it’s going. So for the starters to be able to get us deep and pitch that well, really makes it a lot easier to finish out of those games.”

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