OAK@LAA: Straily fans four, holds Angels to two runs

ANAHEIM -- If there's any team in baseball that knows better than to write off another struggling club at the All-Star break, it's the Oakland A's. When the Midsummer Classic hit last season, they were 43-43 and nine games behind the Rangers.

So with the Angels in a similar situation this year -- currently nine games behind first-place Oakland after winning the first two games of the weekend series, A's manager Bob Melvin knows his SoCal rivals are far from finished.

"We were at .500 at the break and came out and played well and ended up winning the division," Melvin said. "I don't discount anybody at this point, especially not a team that's as talented as they are."

The Angels have struggled all season, but have shown occasional flashes of becoming the title contender many thought they'd be when the season opened. The only question is whether they can sustain it.

"It's a good team," Melvin said. "They're going to play good baseball at some point in time, as they did last year -- it was just a little late for them last year. But I think [it's open] for any team right now."

A's starting to pay for offensive funk

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ANAHEIM -- The A's offensive output in their first series out of the All-Star break hasn't been all that much different than it was in the two series leading up to it.

Except, of course, in one key category: wins.

After going 4-2 against the Red Sox and Pirates, Oakland has dropped two straight to the American League West-rival Angels, scoring just one run in the 18 innings.

"You get in a funk because guys are trying to do too much," said shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has been one of the offense's bright spots this season, hitting .294. "Hypothetically it's pretty easy, but over the course of the season you're going to have streaks like that collectively, and individually and you just have to find ways to minimize those."

In their last eight contests, the A's have scored just 13 runs, but they've gone 4-4 thanks to some steady pitching. During that time, however, they are hitting just .159 with 39 hits -- tying the fewest by an Oakland club over an eight-game stretch in the last 34 years.

Manager Bob Melvin attributed the funk to "the ebbs and flows of the season."

"You try to mix things up sometimes," Melvin said. "If you feel like you're in a funk, you maybe cancel batting practice one day, or there are a lot of things you can do to maybe shake things up. You have to grind through it."

The A's haven't had much luck in terms of finding a rhythm, however. Batting practice was canceled on Saturday because of rain and wasn't held before Sunday's 12:35 p.m. PT first pitch.

"It takes a little bit away from getting back into your routine and in a little bit more of a groove," Melvin acknowledged. "But this game also is so psychological that all it takes is a good game or two, and now you're back and running."

The A's are without the services of left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who has missed the first two games with a sore left wrist. As a club, they're hitting just .243 on the season -- 13th in the AL. Still, they're eighth in runs and ninth in OPS -- numbers that, when paired with their deep pitching staff, have boosted them to two games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West race.

Yoenis' absence likely to reach four games

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ANAHEIM -- Yoenis Cespedes' sore left wrist kept him out of the lineup a third straight game on Sunday, and there's a chance it might sideline him on Monday in Houston, manager Bob Melvin said before the A's finale at Angel Stadium.

Cespedes, who has declined to speak to reporters about the ailment, sustained the injury while taking batting practice before Friday's game, and he hasn't hit since -- though he did take dry swings on Sunday.

"Until we get him in the cage, he swings full and gets some batting practice and is comfortable there, you won't see him in a game," Melvin said. "We're not there yet."

Melvin isn't sure of an exact recovery timetable, but he'd like his left fielder to test the wrist in a more casual setting one day, before returning to BP the next. That would indicate that this year's Chevrolet Home Run Derby champ is at least two days away from a return to the lineup.

"I would doubt tomorrow, because we want to make sure he takes some swings on the field," Melvin said, all but ruling out the club's series opener in Houston on Monday. "If that happens tomorrow then potentially, but I'd probably doubt it."

Before Sunday's game Cespedes sported a tight wrap on the wrist and was icing it in the clubhouse.

Melvin has hinted that Cespedes could be available to pinch-run. But should the injury linger long enough to merit a trip to the disabled list -- and there has been no talk publicly of that -- Cespedes' stint could be backdated to last Sunday because of the All-Star break. If he were to run, it would essentially delay his return by a week.