It's been a rough few weeks for the A's. They are 6-9 over their last 15 contests and 13-13 since the All-Star break.
Atop the American League West at one time, the A's are half a game behind the Rangers in the American League West entering play Saturday. Oakland will look to stay within striking distance as it takes on the Indians Saturday at O.co Coliseum in the middle game of a three-game set with playoff positioning at stake.
While Oakland's record has suffered as of late, a bright spot has been the starting rotation, which has allowed two runs or fewer in four of its last five games.
Dan Straily will look to keep up that pace even though he has been up and down since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. He's 0-4 with a 3.95 ERA in five starts. The right-hander pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays in his last outing, holding them to one run on six hits in a no-decision.
"The mindset was throwing as hard as I can for as long as I can," Straily said after the start." I was able to execute pitches, keep the ball down in the zone, and that's something I haven't been able to do the last few times out."
While the A's have struggled since the break, Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) has excelled. He owns a 2.25 ERA in four starts, but has just one win to show for it.
Jimenez took his second straight loss on Aug. 10 to the Angels, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. For the 18th time this year, Jimenez limited his opponent to three earned runs or fewer.
"When he left the game, we had a chance to win," Indians manager Terry Francona said after the 7-2 loss.
Jimenez is 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA in three career starts against the A's.
Indians: Santana back in cleanup spot
While Francona made it very clear over the past few months that he would not move catcher Carlos Santana into the cleanup spot, he did just that on Friday. It marked the second straight game Santana assumed cleanup duties.
Francona said the difference now is that Yan Gomes has seen an increasing amount of time behind the plate. Because of that, Santana has taken on more time at first base and designated hitter.
"The reason we really didn't [hit Santana fourth] early," Francona said, "and I was pretty open about it, was the fact that he was catching. ... But we've been catching Gomes more now, and with Santana either playing first or DHing, I don't feel like maybe we're sending the wrong message. Hopefully, we can use his offensive skills and not take away from the defense."
Santana is batting .262 with 14 home runs, 29 doubles and 51 RBIs this season Over the course of his career, he has spent the most time in the cleanup spot (194 games), but Friday marked only his seventh game filling that role this season under Francona.
A's: Crisp out of lineup again
Outfielder Coco Crisp was out of the A's starting lineup for the fifth straight game on Friday.
Crisp's left wrist is still stiff after receiving a cortisone shot on Tuesday night. He was hopeful that the recovery process would last just two days. Yoenis Cespedes replaced Crisp in center field in his first start at the position since May 14. Alberto Callaspo hit leadoff.
"He literally is day to day," manager Bob Melvin said. "After the shot, it's when he feels good to play, and sometimes that's a couple of days, and sometimes it's more. As soon as he's comfortable, we'll have him back in there."
• A's left-hander Brett Anderson is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Triple-A Sacramento in his first rehab appearance since injuring his right foot in May.
• The Indians are a Major League-best 8-2 in extra-inning affairs this season. Cleveland is also 24-15 in one-run games.
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.