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SEA@MIN: Felix fans six in fifth shutout of season

The A's won't be enjoying the comforts of home much as they battle for playoff position over the next three weeks. Oakland starts a challenging 20-game stretch on Friday, playing the first of 17 road contests in that span when it opens a three-game set against the Mariners at Safeco Field.

The A's have one upcoming home series against the Orioles, but also travel to face fellow playoff contenders in the Angels, Tigers, Yankees and Rangers, before finishing the season with six home contests. To make matters worse, the A's are coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels, snapping a nine-game winning streak.

But Oakland still is within striking distance of the Rangers in the American League West and half a game out of Wild Card position. After his club went 6-1 on its most recent trip, manager Bob Melvin isn't worried about the schedule.

"I think there have been improvements across the board. You look at our offense over the last couple of months, and we're really a different team," Melvin said on Wednesday. "I think our road record would reflect that. We're not afraid to play on the road. We've had some success on the road. I don't think that's something we're looking at as daunting. The schedule is the schedule. There's nothing you can do about it.

"We try not to even think about it. You play a game, and it happens to be on the road. I don't think anyone is looking at the schedule and saying 'We have X amount of games there.' We're just playing for the day. We just try to keep it pretty simple."

The A's will start rookie A.J. Griffin on Friday against ace Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, who were 5-7 over their past 12 games entering Wednesday. Seattle is 7-6 against Oakland this season, including 3-3 at Safeco Field.

The Mariners now have the chance to send the A's to their first losing streak of at least four games since a nine-game skid from May 22-June 1.

As Oakland looks to hold onto a playoff berth, Melvin is aware of the challenges that await his club over the final month.

"I think it's as much a mental grind as it is a physical grind," he said. "It's always ups and downs. That's the part you have to fight in September. Each and every game is going to be that much more dramatic in September. That's just the way it is, and that's the great thing about baseball."

A's: DL stint doesn't slow Griffin
• Griffin has gone 4-0 with a 2.26 ERA in nine starts. He has a 1.50 ERA in three road outings and has yet to allow more than three runs in a game.

The 24-year-old right-hander spent nearly a month on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, but came off on Saturday to hold the Red Sox to one run on three hits over seven innings. A Jarrod Saltalamacchia bunt single broke up Griffin's perfect game in the fifth.

"I just wanted to go out there and try to pick up where I left off," Griffin said. "I just went out there and did what I always do -- pound the strike zone, try to get ahead of guys, let my teammates make some plays."

This will be Griffin's first career appearance against the Mariners.

Mariners: Noesi, Ramirez could get starts
• Manager Eric Wedge is working on a plan that would get recently recalled right-handers Hector Noesi and Erasmo Ramirez a start before the season ends.

Ramirez began the season with the Mariners as a long reliever before he was optioned to Triple-A to transition to a starting role. He returned and made four starts with Seattle in June -- he went 0-2 with a 4.58 ERA -- but was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right elbow and stayed with Triple-A Tacoma after finishing his rehab assignment with the team.

Noesi made 17 starts for the Mariners before he too was optioned to Triple-A in July. He was 2-11 with a 5.77 ERA.

"Ramirez, before he got hurt, the previous start he was really good and then the three innings prior to the inning he got hurt was really good," Wedge said. "So you get a chance to see some more of that, hopefully. With Noesi, obviously, was struggling up here, struggling at first when he went down there. [He} did right himself and put together a couple of decent outings, so I'd like to see where he's at."

Worth noting
• This will be the teams' final series in Seattle this season, although they will play in Oakland Sept. 28-30.

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