Notes: A's to open important stretch

Notes: A's to open important stretch

OAKLAND -- The A's are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, but they have a chance to change all of that.

Heading into Sunday's game with the Orioles, the A's were 10 1/2 games back of the Angels, who were only a game ahead of the Mariners.

In fact, the Mariners were even with the Angels in the loss column, which means the A's have their work cut out for them.

But by no means are they giving up. With three games in Anaheim starting Monday followed by four in Seattle, they have a chance to gain ground.

"We're not giving up; it's too early in the season to give up," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. "It's only July and we feel like there's still a chance."

If the A's are going to get back in the race, now might be a good time to do it -- and they will be facing teams they historically play well against.

The A's are 4-2 against the Angels this season, but only 2-7 against Seattle after going 17-2 against them last season.

"Wins are important at this point, for sure," A's manager Bob Geren said. "We've always played the Angels and Mariners tough, and I expect the same. We just have to try and play good baseball."

Regardless of whether or not the A's are still in the hunt in the West, they still want to play good baseball when the Mariners and Angels are on the schedule.

"Whether we're in the race or not, it's still good to beat them and do it on their home field," Ellis said.

Street close, Loaiza getting closer: After closer Huston Street's rehab inning in Sacramento, Geren received word from GM Billy Beane and Street himself that everything went well.

Street threw 20 pitches, 15 for strikes, as he struck out two Salt Lake batters. He was scheduled to throw a side session on Sunday.

Geren said there was a 95 percent chance that he would be activated on Monday, but he said he won't be used as a closer right away. Instead, he plans on using Street in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings early on.

Starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza threw off a mound prior to Sunday's game as he got ready to head to Arizona for a simulated game on Monday.

Loaiza will throw another simulated game on Friday, then throw a side session and could be making a rehab start on July 31, if all goes well.

Lineup changes: For the first time since being acquired last Monday, Rob Bowen was in the lineup at catcher for the A's for Sunday's game. Starting catcher Kurt Suzuki got a rest for the first time since taking over as the everyday backstop.

Nick Swisher was back in the lineup, playing first base and batting fifth, a day after being out of the lineup. Swisher left Friday's game with a tight shoulder after hitting the wall in pursuit of a fly ball. He was at first base on Sunday, giving Dan Johnson a rest.

Shannon Stewart was back in left field and Travis Buck was in right. Jack Cust moved back to designated hitter and gave recently activated Mike Piazza a day off.

"He'll be back in tomorrow," Geren said of Piazza. "I'm just trying to look at all the personnel we have and trying to put it all together and run it out there."

Not only was it a day of rest for Piazza, but Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie was holding right-handed batters to a .205 average heading into Sunday.

Up next: A's righty Chad Gaudin (8-5, 3.39 ERA) will be opposed by Angels righty Bartolo Colon (6-5, 6.38 ERA) in the opener of their three-game series in Anaheim. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.

Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.