In the American League playoff chase, the standings for both the division and Wild Card races are quite congested.
So when contenders such as the A's and Rays lock horns -- as they are this weekend in Oakland -- the results have a significant influence on the league's balance of power.
The A's are trying to catch up to the Rangers in the AL West. The Rays are attempting to do the same with the Red Sox in the AL East. Both teams are also clinging to a Wild Card slot, with Oakland leading Tampa Bay by a half-game for the top spot.
"We can't get too caught up in who you're playing or how many games," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We just have to win every possible game that we can because we're at less than 30 games at this point. Every game has a little different feel to it."
Oakland has won five of seven since an 8-13 stretch. It went 4-3 on a recently completed seven-game road trip through Baltimore and Detroit, both home to AL contenders.
"We started to play a little better in Baltimore," Melvin said. "We did lose two out of three, but had some good energy and the offense started to pick up some, and in Detroit you saw that the offense really started to swing the bat well against what was the best pitching staff, at least ERA-wise, in baseball, so that was encouraging to see."
The A's defeated Rays ace David Price in Friday's series opener. On Saturday, they'll toil with Alex Cobb, who is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list. He missed nearly two months with a concussion.
Overall, Cobb stands at 8-2 with a 2.87 ERA.
"I definitely think it has been a gradual return in performance as far as me feeling comfortable in locating the fastball and mixing in pitches," Cobb said.
Sonny Gray (1-2, 3.18 ERA) is slated to pitch for Oakland. The 23-year-old rookie allowed six runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 10-3 loss to the Orioles in his last outing.
Rays: New addition impressing skipper
• Outfielder David DeJesus is batting .364 (8-for-22) since joining the Rays on Aug. 23. Manager Joe Maddon has penciled him into the leadoff spot in four of the five games in which he has started.
"He gets good at-bats, gets on base, sees a lot of pitches and plays really good defense," Maddon said. "He's great in the clubhouse and fits in so well."
• The Rays have yet to announce a starter for Sunday's finale in Oakland. Chris Archer is scheduled to pitch on Monday and Matt Moore threw four innings in a rehab start on Thursday.
"We're bandying things about different options for Sunday," Maddon said. "It depends on where Matt fits in. We're in a state of flux with our pitching."
A's: Norris nearing return
• Derek Norris could rejoin Oakland as soon as Thursday, as he makes his way back from a fractured left big toe. The catcher took batting practice before Friday's contest and will play three games with Triple-A Sacramento beginning Saturday.
"I love this game too much to sit out any longer," Norris said, "especially with everything the team's going through and the playoff push."
• The A's are 13-13 in August and need a win Saturday to avoid their first month with a losing record since May 2012.
• In four games since rejoining the A's, catcher Kurt Suzuki has six hits -- including two doubles and a home run -- and four RBIs.