A second-half rut for the Oakland Athletics won't get any easier on Monday night, when the playoff hopefuls visit the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers to begin a four-game series.
Oakland carried a two-game advantage for first place in the AL West into the All-Star break and led in the standings by six games on July 29. However, the Athletics are just 9-14 since and have fallen 2 1/2 games behind Texas for the top spot in the division.
The A's lost for the fourth time in five games on Sunday, falling in Baltimore by a 10-3 margin. With the loss, Oakland leads the Cleveland Indians by just 1 1/2 games for the league's second wild card spot, with the Orioles two games off the pace.
Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, but Josh Reddick left after aggravating a right wrist injury in the sixth inning and could land back on the disabled list. Sonny Gray compounded things by allowing a season-high six runs over 3 1/3 innings.
"I felt good. My stuff has been better. I just didn't make all the pitches that I needed to. They weren't really hitting the ball that hard, but they were finding holes," Gray said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, are on the upswing, having won six of their last eight. They used an 11-3 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday to maintain a six- game edge over the Indians for first place in the AL Central.
Miguel Cabrera and Andy Dirks both hit two-run homers to help Detroit finish off the three-game sweep. Dirks drove in three runs and Rick Porcello allowed three runs over seven innings of work.
"It was nice to come in here, get a win and complete a sweep," said Porcello, a Morristown, New Jersey native. "And I guess it made it a little bit sweeter that it was a team that I watched growing up."
Also not working in the Athletics' favor is the fact they have to go up against the streaking Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers have won each of the right- hander's last six starts and he is 4-0 in that span with a 1.51 earned run average.
Sanchez did not factor into a 7-1 win over Minnesota on Wednesday despite hurling 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and striking out eight. It marked the 10th time in his last 11 outings he allowed two runs or fewer and the 29-year- old stands 11-7 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 starts this season. That includes a mark of 7-2 with a 1.92 ERA in 10 games at home.
Sanchez is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two career meetings with the A's. He picked up a victory on April 14 in Oakland, giving up a run over seven innings on three hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.
A.J. Griffin takes the mound for Oakland and will try to contain Detroit's powerful lineup.
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 3.47 ERA over four starts in August. He gave up five runs over his first three outings of the month, but yielded four runs on five hits and four walks over six innings of a 5-3 setback to Seattle on Wednesday.
Griffin also served up his Major League-leading 29th and 30th home runs of the season while falling to 10-9 with a 3.84 ERA in 26 starts.
The 25-year-old will face the Tigers for the first time this year and for the second time in his career during the regular season. He lost in Detroit on Sept. 18, yielding five runs over 4 2/3 innings while getting touched for three homers. That included a solo shot by Cabrera and a two-run homer off the bat of Prince Fielder.
The Tigers won two of three in Oakland back in April and have won five of the past seven encounters.