Oakland has won eight of its past 10 games entering Monday's series opener against the Indians, moving to a season-high 12 games over .500, a level the club hasn't reached since the end of the 2006 season. The A's are 32-15 since the end of June, posting the best record in the Majors during that time, and they're well positioned entering the stretch run of the season.
Now, Oakland will get four games against a Cleveland club that has tumbled down the standings, then head home to face a Boston club that just parted ways with its three highest-paid players. The A's road to the postseason won't get easier in September, as they'll play the Rangers and Angels twice, plus the Tigers and Yankees on the road. This is a prime opportunity to take advantage of the schedule, even if the A's say they're not looking at it that way.
"Nothing different than what we've been doing -- every series is important; every game is important," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We try to focus on the particular day, and all our efforts and focus are on that particular day. If we start thinking about what could transpire two, three weeks from now, those are distractions we don't need to be thinking about."
Oakland will send lefty Brett Anderson to the mound on Monday for his second start of the season following more than a year of rehab from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Anderson won his first outing back, giving up one run and striking out six over seven innings against the Twins.
"Just getting out there and getting on the mound again, throwing a pitch in the big leagues is kind of a relief," Anderson said on Tuesday. "I don't think I could have scripted a better performance really, all things considered. The big thing is helping the team win a ballgame, and hopefully I can continue to do that."
Anderson will be facing Indians sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez, who will make his third start of the season. The right-hander is coming off a mostly positive outing against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, as he didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning. But the Tribe righty ended up taking the loss, allowing four runs on three hits in six-plus innings.
"It was unfortunate, because I thought that Hernandez -- our Hernandez -- threw the ball very well, too, and matched up pretty good against Felix," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
A's: Reddick shines after bump to six-hole
Josh Reddick got Friday off and found himself in the sixth spot in the lineup when he returned on Saturday, the first time he had hit there since March 28. He has been Oakland's No. 3 hitter most of the season but had hit .149 with 31 strikeouts in his past 23 games entering Saturday's series finale at Tropicana Field.
Reddick responded well, picking up three hits as the A's beat the Rays, 4-2, and he could find himself back in his usual spot this week, as Oakland will face four right-handers in a row at Cleveland.
"I think any time a guy goes through some struggles, you want to change it up a bit," Melvin said. "We expect him to be back in the three-spot before long, whether it's a couple of days or whatever. But this isn't uncommon over the course of a 162-game season. I can't remember a season where I've had someone hit in the same spot the whole year."
The upcoming line of opposing right-handers also means Seth Smith should get the majority of starts at designated hitter over Jonny Gomes.
Indians: Perez encourages Tribe to bounce back
Cleveland's playoff hopes have quickly evaporated over the last month, but closer Chris Perez isn't ready to watch his club put this season in the past. Instead, Perez said, the Indians need to remember how they fell into 11- and nine-game losing streaks and remember the disappointment to keep it from happening again.
"I don't think you can wash it all away; it was too stinging," Perez said. "To be right there and then not lose because of injuries or stuff like we did last year, it's tough to take. At the same time, we've got 35 games to find out what we have for next year. Guys can step up and impress our staff.
"If anything, if we come out here and have a good September, we can say, 'Look, we went through the worst you can go through, and we bounced back and we're professionals,'" he added. "At the end of the day, that's our job."
The A's have yet to decide who will start on Wednesday. It could be left-hander Travis Blackley, unless he has to pitch in long relief on Monday or Tuesday, or it could be A.J. Griffin, who's rehabbing with Triple-A Sacramento.
Oakland could also end up keeping Jarrod Parker and Brandon McCarthy on regular rest and start them Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, instead of using Sunday's off-day to give them extra time off.
The Indians have won back-to-back games just twice in their past 44 contests, and they haven't won three in a row since July 3-5.