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HOU@OAK: Griffin goes a solid six, strikes out nine

With their closest challengers idle, the A's have a chance to expand upon their three-game American League West lead on Thursday when they conclude a three-game series against the Twins at Target Field.

Oakland is looking for all the cushion it can get with a pivotal weekend series against the second-place Rangers in Arlington looming.

The A's hand the ball to right-hander A.J. Griffin, coming off a start against Houston on Friday in which he struck out a career-high-tying nine and allowed four runs over six innings.

Griffin has won three consecutive starts, and if the A's offense comes anywhere close to its output from Wednesday night, he'll be looking at a fourth straight victory. Oakland banged out 18 runs on 22 hits -- including a 10-run fourth -- and every starter had at least a hit, an RBI and a run scored.

Opposite Griffin will be Twins left-hander Scott Diamond, who will rejoin the rotation with the club opting to use six starters the rest of the way. In early August, Diamond was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, where he made six starts and posted a 2.02 ERA.

"It means a lot," Diamond said. "They obviously didn't have to do this. With the way I was pitching when I was up here, I didn't deserve it. I knew going down there that I had to perform and get back to the basics, so I'm thankful for the opportunity."

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire expects different results this time around.

"Confidence was the big thing when we sent him down, and he's definitely confident right now," Gardenhire said. "He knew his pitches weren't finishing. He had some success, and kind of took off from there. He pitched very well down the stretch. At least we know he's got his confidence back, and that's huge."

A's: Neshek enjoying time in Oakland
• A's reliever Pat Neshek may have an uncertain future ahead of him this offseason. But he tossed a scoreless inning Wednesday and is enjoying every second of his time in Oakland.

"It's been fun," Neshek said. "This team, the young guys and winning ... it's the funnest team I've ever played on. It's been a blast."

Neshek spent four seasons with the Twins, and he was on the postseason roster for the AL Division Series against Oakland, which Minnesota lost in 2006.

Twins: Mauer has workout shut down
• Catcher Joe Mauer was shut down in the middle of a workout Wednesday because of concussion-like symptoms.

"He didn't have a good day," general manager Terry Ryan said. "It's a concern more than frustration. You've got to feel for the guy. He just didn't feel good today so we sent him home."

Mauer sustained the concussion Aug. 19 when he was hit by a foul tip while catching.

Worth noting
• In three at-bats against Diamond, A's right fielder Josh Reddick has a triple and a home run.

• The Twins and A's two series this month mark the first time they've met on two separate occasions in September since 2002. They also met in the ALDS that year.

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