CLEVELAND -- With Monday's non-waivers trade deadline fast approaching, two teams expected to be active, one as a buyer, one as a seller, will meet Friday night at Progressive Field for the first game of a three-game series.
The Oakland A's, who have been one of the hotter teams in the league since the All-Star break, will face the Cleveland Indians, who have come stumbling out of the break.
The A's have won five of their last six games and are 9-4 since the break. The Indians have lost four of their last five games and are 5-6 since the break.
Even with their recent surge, the A's are still 47-55 and in fourth place in the AL West while the Indians are 57-42 and in first place in the AL Central. However, in the last eight days the Indians have seen their lead in the division shrink from 7 1/2 games to 4 1/2 games.
The A's were thought to be sellers at the trade deadline, and have a handful of players who might be of interest to a contending team, but as the series in Cleveland begins, the A's haven't made any significant moves.
"I know there's some time left, but we haven't moved anybody," A's manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. "We're playing better baseball and that certainly gives pause for thought."
The Indians, on the other hand, have been leading their division since June 3, but still have some needs that they would like to address before Monday's trade deadline. Chief among those needs is bullpen help, specifically a left-hander.
For most of this season the Indians have operated with no left-handers in their bullpen. They currently have just one: Kyle Crockett, who is a finesse lefty, who hasn't allowed a run in five appearances in July, but still has a 7.36 ERA in 16 appearances overall.
"When he's confident and hitting his spots and working ahead he can do it," said manager Terry Francona. "But he doesn't have the luxury of having a 95 mph fastball, which allows you to get away with some mistakes. When he makes his pitches, he's fine."
A left-handed reliever is at the top of the Indians' trade deadline shopping list, with a catcher being a close second. Catcher Yan Gomes is expected to miss at least another month with a separated shoulder. In Gomes' absence backups Chris Gimenez and Roberto Perez have shared the catching duties.
In game one of the series Friday night the A's starter will be Kendall Graveman, who has been on a roll. Cleveland's starter, Trevor Bauer, has struggled in recent starts.
In his first nine starts this season, Graveman was 1-6 with a 5.36 ERA. But in 10 starts since then he is 6-0 with a 3.25 ERA. In four July starts he is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA. In his last start, July 23, he pitched his second career complete game in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay. In two career starts against Cleveland Graveman is 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA.
Bauer has had three rough outings in a row. On July 1 he was 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA. But in three starts since then he is 0-2 with a 7.47 ERA. Friday's start will be Bauer second career appearance vs. the A's. On Aug. 2 of last year, a 2-1 Oakland victory in which he pitched 6 2/3 innings, he gave up one run on four hits with six strikeouts and four walks.