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TEX@OAK: Griffin fans seven over 6 2/3 good frames

Of the five teams in the American League West, the California clubs are the only two that Cleveland hasn't visited this year. That will change Friday, as the Indians are set to play three in Oakland and three in Los Angeles, starting this weekend at O.co Coliseum.

And with how the Tribe has treated AL West teams this season, the upcoming slate of games might be just what the Indians need as they work to reverse their recent fortune.

Though they're coming off a series win in Minnesota, the Indians have dropped seven of their last 10 games. The A's haven't fared much better, dropping a series to the lowly Astros this week and dipping below .500 (12-13) since the All-Star break.

A's manager Bob Melvin said the key for any struggling team that is in the playoff race is to have perspective that it's a long season without falling into complacency.

"That is the Catch-22, that you do have experience coming back and putting yourself in a position like we did last year," he said. "Yet you don't want to sit there and say, 'Oh, it's going to happen.' You have to make it happen."

Against the AL West, Cleveland is making it happen by going 17-6, which includes a four-game sweep of the A's on May 6-9 at Progressive Field.

The A's, coming off a win over Houston on Thursday, will seek revenge in Friday's series opener, sending right-hander A.J. Griffin (10-8, 3.88 ERA) to the mound against Cleveland's All-Star sinkerballer, righty Justin Masterson (13-8, 3.59 ERA).

Masterson turned in his shortest outing of the season last Sunday, when he allowed seven hits and five runs (four earned) against the Angels over 4 1/3 innings. He also had four walks and five strikeouts. After his exit, the Indians rallied from five runs down to win a 6-5 game, averting a sweep and a winless homestead.

"It just wasn't coming out," said Masterson, who is 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA in three August starts. "We're tying to get the whip going, and the ball was moving a whole heck of a lot. But just not the best control within there."

His opponent, Griffin, also earned a no-decision on Sunday. In Toronto, Griffin gave up five hits and three runs (two earned) across 5 2/3 innings, with a career-high six walks (including one intentional) and two strikeouts.

"I couldn't find my release point, really, and just tried to battle through," Griffin said after the Athletics' 6-4 victory. "The offense did a good job picking me up there. It's a good team win."

That start was a microcosm of the A's August struggles, with the young starting pitching taking a downhill turn.

Even with Sonny Gray's masterful eight-inning shutout debut at home on Thursday, Oakland starters are just 4-7 with a 4.47 ERA over their last 16 games, and it's come right as the offense (hitting right around .230 over the last 31 games) has also gone slumping.

One of the two squads could right the ship this weekend, and each needs a jumpstart to their shot at winning their respective divisions.

Indians: Off-day should help bullpen
The Indians' off-day on Thursday was their first since July 25. In between, they played 20 games in 20 days, finishing that span with a 12-8 record.

Dating back to the Indians' 14-inning defeat on Aug. 7, the club's starters have thrown 38 innings and its relievers have tossed 41 innings. Rich Hill, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Chris Perez and Joe Smith all pitched on Wednesday, when the Tribe won, 9-8, in 12 innings.

Perez blew a save in the 10th inning, giving the Tribe's bullpen 21 blown saves this season, which trails Houston by one for the AL lead in that category.

Athletics: Norris returns to A's lineup
Derek Norris caught Sonny Gray's first career start in Oakland on Thursday after the A's signal caller missed four games with back spasms. Norris went 0-for-2 with a walk in the No. 8 hole of Oakland's order before leaving after seven innings.

Oakland's right-handed hitting catcher was available in "emergency situations" the previous two games, but the goal was always for him to start in Thursday's series finale with left-hander Erik Bedard starting for the Astros.

Norris' back spasms made it difficult for him to stand as recently as Sunday, but he was good to go Thursday, though he said he's not anticipating being 100 percent any time soon.

Worth noting
• In the last five years, the A's have the edge in the overall series, going 21-16 against Cleveland since 2009.

• Against the AL Central, Oakland is 11-9. The A's have played every team in the division except Minnesota.

• Thursday's game against Houston marked the first time in nearly a week that Oakland didn't commit an error. Prior to that, the A's had committed at least one error in five straight games, with seven total errors during that stretch.

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