Although the Oakland Athletics are on course for the playoffs, they still have plenty to play for over the remainder of the season.
The AL West leaders are in a tight race to grab home-field advantage in a division series, and will continue that pursuit Tuesday night at home against the Los Angeles Angels.Oakland (88-62) has a magic number of seven over Texas to win a second straight division title and six over Cleveland to clinch at least a wild-card spot. The Athletics' five-game win streak ended with Monday's 12-1 loss in the opener of this three-game set.That defeat and any in the future could prove costly. Although the free-falling Rangers are seemingly no longer a threat, Oakland is one game ahead of AL Central-leading Detroit for home-field advantage in a probable division series.The Athletics and Tigers do not face an opponent with a winning record over the remainder of the season, and Los Angeles (73-77) owns the best mark of any remaining foe for either.Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Kole Calhoun all drove in three runs Monday to lead the Angels to a ninth win in 12 games."There's no doubt this year has filled us with a lot of frustration," manager Mike Scioscia said. "This last month gives us a lot of hope looking forward to some of our kids that are playing well, some of the things we've been looking to take place and be in place during the season."Calhoun has 23 RBIs in his last 22 games, and leads all rookies with 30 since he was recalled from the minors July 28. He is 16 for 36 (.444) with 11 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.He'll be up against another rookie Tuesday in Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.63 ERA), whose lone appearance against the Angels was a two-inning stint of scoreless relief July 19 in his second big league appearance.Gray has limited opponents to a .206 average. The right-hander has yielded 15 of his 17 runs in the first three innings of a game, and opponents are batting .271 against him in that span and .144 from the fourth inning on.Shortstop Jed Lowrie expects to return to Oakland's lineup Tuesday after missing a game due to tightness in his right hamstring. Lowrie said it flared up in the weekend series in Texas, but he got through pregame activities OK on Monday."Dallas is known for causing cramps," Lowrie told the Athletics' official website. "I don't think it's out of the ordinary."Lowrie is third in the majors with 43 doubles, and 9 for 26 at home against Los Angeles this year.Yoenis Cespedes went 2 for 3 on Monday as he returned after missing a game with a sore right shoulder.Trout, who has reached base in 23 straight games, is second in the majors in on-base percentage at .436. That would break the franchise record of .429, accomplished by Chili Davis and Tim Salmon in 1995.Angels starter Garrett Richards (7-6, 3.91) has posted a 2.41 ERA in winning all three outings this month. The right-hander gave up seven runs in a 10-6 loss at Oakland on April 30, then threw five scoreless innings in his other career start against the A's on July 27.