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A's hope to move closer to AL West title, open set vs. Twins

The Oakland Athletics hope to move one step closer to a second straight American League West crown on Thursday when they open a four- game set with the Minnesota Twins at O.co Coliseum.

Thanks to Texas' loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Oakland's magic number was sliced to four. The Athletics, though, failed to reduce it even further, as they dropped the rubber match of their three-game set to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 5-4, in 11 innings.

Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes each socked two-run homers in the third inning for Oakland, which received a strong six-inning effort from A.J. Griffin only to see closer Grant Balfour blow his third save in 41 chances this season.

"He's had a great year," said Athletics manager Bob Melvin. "If you look at it overall, three blown saves is going to work anywhere. And actually he did have good stuff today. He just got one fastball probably not in the right spot to a pretty good fastball hitter."

Hoping to get the A's back on track Thursday will be right-handed rookie Dan Straily, who has won his last four starts. Straily beat Texas on Friday, holding the Rangers to a pair of runs in 5 2/3 innings to run his record to 10-7, while lowering his ERA to 4.11.

Straily, who has never faced the Twins, has pitched to a 1.90 ERA over his winning streak and leads AL rookies in wins (10), strikeouts (113) and innings pitched (140).

Minnesota will counter with righty Kevin Correia, who is 9-12 with a 4.31 ERA. Correia lost his second straight start on Friday to Tampa Bay, as he gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings. However, he has pitched to a 2.87 ERA over his last seven starts.

Correia is 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in six games (3 starts) against the A's. This, though, will be his first appearance against them since 2009.

Minnesota salvaged the finale of its three-game set with the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, as Chris Colabello sparked a three-run second inning in the Twins' 4-3 win.

Colabello, Eric Fryer and Brian Dozier all drove in runs with singles in the second to help the Twins snap a two-game losing streak and a five-game skid to the White Sox.

Scott Diamond (6-11) earned the win after allowing three runs on five hits across 6 1/3 innings. It was the left-hander's first victory since June 20.

"I think that going down to Rochester was kind of a reset for me. I feel like I'm just building off of that a little bit. Personally, it hasn't been that long for me since a win. Up here, its been awhile. I'm hoping to finish up the season strong," said Diamond after his second start since being recalled.

The Minnesota bullpen only allowed one hit the rest of the way, with Glen Perkins picking up his 36th save of the season after throwing a perfect ninth.

Oakland took two of three from the Twins last week at Target Field.