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TB@OAK: Griffin stifles Rays with a tremendous start

The A's have gotten the better of the Astros more often than not in their first season as American League West foes, but the contending team knows the rebuilding team has what it takes to make things difficult in this September series.

The Astros proved as much with a victory in the opener of a four-game set, and the A's expect the same when the series continues Friday night. It'll be A's right-hander A.J. Griffin against Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel in the second game of the series.

After playing a line of contenders, the A's and manager Bob Melvin know the Astros are a team that can't and won't be overlooked.

"We know we have to play our best baseball every day, regardless of who we're playing," Melvin said. "That's just the way it is. Every game feels important to us, and it shouldn't matter who we're playing."

The A's won the first 10 meetings between the clubs this year, but the Astros have responded by winning four of the last six.

"Earlier on in the year, they had our number," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It was one of those things where these guys talked about it among themselves and we kind of looked at the way in which they were beating us and said that we're going to have to make sure we don't allow that to happen. . . . They have a lot on the line. But I think our guys are up for the challenge."

After allowing four earned runs in each of his previous two starts, Griffin settled down to keep the Rays in check in his last outing on Sunday. He allowed one run on five hits, including a home run, with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings.

"I've been feeling pretty good lately, the results just haven't been there," Griffin said after that one.

Keuchel gave up three runs in the first inning of his last start against the Mariners, but held them scoreless over his final six frames. He set down 12 in a row from the first through fifth innings and took the loss in Houston's 3-1 defeat.

The 25-year-old, in his second year in the Majors, has gone seven innings in his last two starts, posting a 1.93 ERA and 10 strikeouts despite a 0-1 record.

Astros: Castro available
After taking batting practice Thursday for the first time since leaving Monday's game, All-Star catcher Jason Castro was available for pinch-hitting duties, but wasn't used Thursday night.

Porter said he'd prefer to get Castro a couple of at-bats before putting him back in the starting lineup, but Castro reported that he was feeling better after having his knee drained.

"I'm pretty happy with the kind of way it's gone on," Castro said.

A's: Norris back in the mix
Activated from the disabled list Thursday, Derek Norris did not start Thursday's series opener against the Astros with right-hander Brad Peacock starting, but he could be in the lineup come Friday against southpaw Keuchel.

Norris, who has a .345 average and .446 on-base percentage in 26 games since July 1, will be playing with a fractured left big toe, but says the pain is manageable. Along with Stephen Vogt and Kurt Suzuki, Norris gives the A's options behind the plate.

"Having a third guy now gives us a chance to do some in-game stuff we weren't able to do before," said Melvin.

Worth noting
•The Astros are 21-43 against the AL West in their first season in the division. The A's are 34-27.

• The Astros are 6-8 in their current stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

• After losing 3-2 on Thursday, the A's are now 26-18 in one-run games, still behind only Arizona (29) for the most one-run victories.

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