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OAK@TEX: Straily tosses 5 2/3 frames of two-run ball

The A's clinched the 2012 American League West title on their home field on the final day of the season, and they head into their last home series of 2013 ahead of that schedule.

When the Twins visit Oakland for a four-game set starting Thursday, the A's have the potential to clinch the division, or at least a postseason spot, before they head out of town for the final week of the regular season.

Oakland's magic number is at five for the division title and four for a postseason spot following a loss to the Angels that slipped away in the ninth inning on Grant Balfour's third blown save of the season.

"We've had some tough losses this year and we've had dramatic wins, so you just put this one away and you come back tomorrow and expect to win, and as a team we've been pretty good about that, really the last two years," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

It will be rookie Dan Straily on the mound for the A's in the opener, and he'll meet veteran Kevin Correia as the two teams hit the field for the fourth of seven times this season.

The Twins might not be in the hunt this year, but they're certainly going to be a big part of the American League playoff push down the stretch -- finishing the season with this series at Oakland followed by a homestand in which they play the Tigers and Indians.

"Every team we're playing is a team battling for the playoffs, so you don't have time to reflect," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You always wish it went better for us. But we have a job to do. We've got to play Oakland, Cleveland and Detroit. All three of them are going to be in the middle of this. So that's what we're thinking about it."

Entering his 25th start of the season and his first ever against the Twins, Straily leads AL rookies in wins (10), strikeouts (113) and innings pitched (140), and he is on a serious roll. Straily is 4-0 with a 1.90 ERA and .181 opponents' batting average over his last four starts.

His last time out, Straily fought off some first-inning struggles against Texas, allowing two runs on one hit while throwing 33 pitches. He settled down to make it through 5 2/3 innings, with just one other hit allowed after the first.

Correia has been on a good roll lately, too. He went six-plus innings in a loss the last time out against the Rays, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He has a 2.87 ERA over his last seven outings entering his 30th start of the season, and while he has faced the A's six times previously, the last time was in 2009.

Twins: Bullpen does it again
Minnesota's bullpen has been a bright spot throughout the season, and with a trio of relievers including closer Glen Perkins wrapping up the Twins' win at Chicago on Wednesday, the solid work continued.

"That's the one constant on this ballclub is that we've had about the same bullpen for the better part of the year," GM Terry Ryan said about the team's relief corps.

Perkins recorded his 36th save of the season, and his 55th career save has him tied for eighth in Twins annals with Mike Marshall.

A's: Lowrie returns
Jed Lowrie was back in the lineup Wednesday, starting for the first time since coming out of Sunday's game with tightness in his right hamstring, and he seemed fine into extra innings, going 2-for-5.

"You want to make sure you don't push a guy too far at this point in the year, and giving him almost two full days off hopefully helped that," Melvin said.

Worth noting
• The A's took two of three at Target Field last week in the first 2013 meeting between the clubs. Oakland won the season series last year, 5-4.

• The A's are 18-12 vs. the AL Central. The Twins are 19-10 vs. the AL West.

Series probables
Thursday: RHP Kevin Correia (9-12, 4.31) vs. RHP Dan Straily (10-7, 4.11)
Friday: LHP Andrew Albers (2-3, 3.81) vs. RHP Bartolo Colón (16-6, 2.73)
Saturday: LHP Pedro Hernandez (3-1, 5.26) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (11-7, 3.81)
Sunday: RHP Cole De Vries (0-0, 7.88) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (3-3, 2.50)

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