The A’s encounter a team as hot as they once were

The A’s were the talk of baseball throughout July, running off a franchise-best 19-5 record for the month to vault into postseason contention. In the opposing dugout this series, they see the hottest team of August. The Tampa Bay Rays moved to 16-5 in the month, best in the majors, with Thursday’s 5-0 blanking of the A’s. The Rays are rolling right now, showing why they are leading the American League wild card race. And the bad news for the A’s is the man who shut them out Thursday, Alex Cobb, was the statistical weak link in the three starters they’ll face this series. Cobb carried a 7-8 record and 4.74 ERA into the game. On Friday, Oakland faces Matt Moore (10-7, 3.57) and on Saturday they’ll get Jeremy Hellickson (8-8, 3.28). The A’s have been shut out 15 times, most in the majors. And though A’s manager Bob Melvin said the shutout total, in and of itself, doesn’t overly concern him, the A’s are in trouble if their bats don’t wake up over the next two days.

One bad sign for the A’s is the struggles of No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick. He went 0 for 4 on Thursday and is now 14 for 94 over his last 23 games. He has 31 strikeouts over that span. It’s been easy to overlook Reddick’s numbers as the A’s have remained in the wild card chase, but they’ll be hurting if he doesn’t crank it up at some point.

One good sign for the A’s: Newly acquired shortstop Stephen Drew recorded his first hits with the A’s. Drew was 0 for 7 with Oakland — and 0 for 22 going back to before the A’s traded for him — when he singled down the left field line in the fourth inning. He doubled to right-center in his next at-bat and walked in his final plate appearance. Drew has also looked smooth at shortstop since arriving from Arizona.

–Right-hander Bartolo Colon, suspended for the rest of the season Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, was linked in the 2007 Mitchell Report to a trainer who had strong ties to performance-enhancing drugs, as was reported in a San Francisco Chronicle story Thursday. The Mitchell Report indicated that Colon worked with the trainer, Angel “Nao” Presinal, throughout his Cy Young season of 2005 with the Angels. A lot of time has passed since then — and it’s important to note that Colon was not linked to steroids in the Mitchell Report — but it certainly raises suspicion of how far back Colon’s use of banned substances might go. A’s GM Billy Beane declined to discuss Colon’s situation or anything else performance-enhancing drug related Thursday.

–The A’s send Jarrod Parker to the mound Friday trying to even up this three-game series …

Joe Stiglich