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CIN@NYY: Girardi on Nova's 12 strikeouts, loss

The A's planned on taking the Yankees seriously whether they limped to the West Coast with a struggling offense or arrived in Oakland winners of back-to-back games.

Unfortunately for Oakland, the Yankees will play Friday's series opener coming off an offensive outburst reminiscent of those seen from recent Yankees squads, not the one near the bottom of the American League East that is hovering around the .500 mark, like the A's.

"I think we're an underdog, period, and I think we probably relish that," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "The fact that you look at our experience -- and maybe not payroll, but our experience, and so forth -- and look at some of the other teams' experience, and I think we relish the fact that we get a chance to match up and try to beat these teams. [We're] certainly not scared of them."

The Yankees did little to elicit fear before Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Royals, though.

New York entered the game with eight hits in its last 79 at-bats with runners in scoring position and again hardly hit in such spots, but three homers helped the club close its homestand with a 3-3 record.

The Yankees will have to continue to score runs if Ivan Nova doesn't bounce back. The sophomore right-hander allowed 10 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings across his past two starts, although he struck out a career-high 12 batters his last time out.

"I used to pitch with a lot of ground balls," Nova said after losing to the Reds on Saturday. "This year, I haven't. I guess I've just got to go back and do exactly the same thing as last year -- getting my ground balls and a strikeout when you need it."

The A's will send Tyson Ross to the mound opposite Nova with confidence.

The right-hander allowed only two runs across his past two starts, continuing to lower his ERA from a season-worst 8.55 in early May. Ross has never started against the Yankees -- struggling or not -- but he has pitched against them in relief.

"Even if they're not playing well, certainly their lineup gets your attention," Melvin said. "You know you have to play good baseball regardless against them. For the most part, they're always going to put up some runs."

Yankees: A-Rod shows off bat, legs
Yankees manager Joe Girardi expressed some concern early in the week that third baseman Alex Rodriguez was putting too much pressure on himself as the Yankees started their homestand with only one win and three losses.

Rodriguez responded with a pair of homers on Wednesday after using his legs to provide a bit of production early in the series against Kansas City.

Despite entering Wednesday with just five home runs and 15 RBIs, Rodriguez has been aggressive on the basepaths. He tagged up to take third base on a fly ball to left field on Monday and stole second on the first pitch upon reaching base on Tuesday. Rodriguez also made a strong throw off his back foot to record the final out on Tuesday night.

"That's what Alex does," Girardi said. "He's a complete player and he's very heads-up, very smart. If he sees a little opening they're going to give you, he's going to take advantage of it."

A's: Inge may return against Twins
On Wednesday, third baseman Brandon Inge participated in running drills for a second consecutive day as he progresses from a strained right groin, but he will not be eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list until the Yankees leave town.

Both Inge and Melvin are cautiously optimistic that the veteran infielder will return against the Twins on Monday, the first day he is eligible to be activated.

Josh Donaldson will likely remain in the lineup in place of Inge at third base, where Donaldson has started the past 11 games. He is hitting only .171 in that span, however.

Worth noting
• Derek Jeter tied Paul Waner for 15th place on the all-time hits list on Wednesday with No. 3,152, an eighth-inning single up the middle. Jeter went 3-for-5 with a double.

• Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is one of seven players in the Majors to appear in the field for every inning his team has played this season. For Granderson, that means 390 1/3 innings entering this weekend's series.

• A's outfielder Coco Crisp threw out Albert Pujols at third base on Wednesday, tying Oakland for an AL-best 10 outfield assists this season.

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