The Athletics are surging. Who can stop them?
Oakland moved to a season-high 20 games over .500 with a win against Toronto on Monday night. Their six-game lead in the American League West is their largest advantage since September 2006.
The Rangers, Oakland's chief competition for the division crown, have floundered since the All-Star break and are 4-12 over their last 16 contests.
The A's boast the AL's best home record (34-16). They claimed Monday's series opener against the Blue Jays with relative ease, winning by 9-4.
It's the first encounter between Toronto and Oakland this season, and A's manager Bob Melvin is surprised to see the Blue Jays in the AL East cellar.
"You look at their offensive numbers and their pitching numbers -- their pitching numbers aren't great even though they do have some really good arms over there," Melvin said. "But their offensive numbers are good. They're second in the league in homers, they run a lot, they create a lot of havoc. You look up and down the lineup and they have a lot of guys who can do damage, even deeper in the lineup with guys like [Colby] Rasmus and [J.P.] Arencibia can hit the ball out of the ballpark.
"Offensively, they're one of the more difficult teams to deal with in the league."
Melvin said it's odd to face a team for the first time four months into the season, though the Blue Jays don't exactly field a roster of unknowns.
"It's a little different," Melvin said. "You do know quite a bit about some of their players because they have a lot of high-profile players and guys who have done a lot of damage for years."
On Tuesday, the A's will have to toil with veteran southpaw Mark Buehrle, who is coming off of a two-hit shutout against the Astros on Thursday.
"I had everything working," Buehrle said. "I was making pitches when I had to, movement was good, keeping guys off balance. I'm not going to sit here and say it was one pitch that was making guys strike out a lot. I struck out multiple guys on certain pitches, but it was just one of those games that I had everything going for me."
Oakland will counter with right-hander Dan Straily, who has posted a 6-4 record and 4.43 ERA in 16 starts this season.
Blue Jays: Lind returns
• Adam Lind sat out Sunday's game with pain in his back, but he returned to the lineup on Monday, hitting a home run.
"He felt better today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Monday. "[Sunday], when he got to the ballpark it tightened up on him."
• Edwin Encarnacion was named AL Player of the Week on Monday after he batted an AL-best .520 (13-for-25) with two home runs and five RBIs. Both long balls came in the seventh inning of Toronto's 12-6 win against Houston on Friday. He homered again on Monday.
A's: Sogard moves up
• Melvin bumped up second baseman Eric Sogard to the No. 2 spot in his batting order on Monday, one day after the infielder collected a career-high-tying three hits.
"He probably looked at the lineup and thought he had the day off when he looked down in the nine spot," Melvin said. "He's been swinging well and deserves to be up there. He kind profiles the spot too. He can handle the bat a little bit, pull the ball in the hole when he has to, hit the ball the other way. He can be a hit-and-run type of guy."
Sogard went 0-for-4 with a run scored on Monday.
• The A's won 16 games each in April, May and June. A win on Tuesday would mark their 16th win in July.
• The Blue Jays are 10-21 since their 11-game winning streak in June.