What's new: The A's are baseball's hottest team, winning nine of their past 10, including a weekend sweep in Cleveland in which they outscored the Indians 30-6. Their offense, led by 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Yeonis Cespedes and 1B/OF Brandon Moss, has been impressive, first in the AL in runs (235, vs. the Rays' 179), walks (192) and on-base percentage (.344) and third in home runs (48). So, too, is their pitching staff, which leads the AL with a 2.92 ERA and .217 opponents average, even better with runners in scoring position — .185. The bullpen has been the one area of concern, with an AL high-matching eight blown saves as Jim Johnson, who replaced current Ray Grant Balfour, has been inconsistent.
Key stat: The A's have a majors-most five wins when trailing after seven innings.
Connections: Balfour spent past three seasons with A's, OF David DeJesus 2011. … A's LHP Scott Kazmir was a Rays All-Star; C John Jaso, coach Ariel Prieto, head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta are also ex-Rays, as is C Stephen Vogt, currently at Triple A.
Series history: A's lead 89-55 overall, 39-34 at Trop.
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer