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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jon Lester rediscovered his curveball last year, and it has been a helpful addition to an already impressive repertoire.
Coco Crisp had two hits and drove in a run, supporting another strong outing by Lester, and the Oakland Athletics defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 on Friday night to regain the top spot in the chase for AL wild cards.
"It's been a solid pitch for me all year," Lester said of the curve. "It has been in the past but I lost it. During the second half last year I kind of figured out how it works and have been able to drop it in there."
Derek Norris and Eric Sogard also drove in runs for Oakland, which moved a half-game ahead of the Kansas City Royals, who were beaten by the Detroit Tigers earlier Friday.
Ryan Howard hit a home run for the Phillies, who have lost five of six.
Lester (16-10) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven en route to his third consecutive win. Sean Doolittle, who blew a save on Wednesday, pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
"When you have something like that happen you want to get back out there as soon as possible and get back to feeling good," Doolittle said. "It was so bad last time out, it was easy to throw it out."
Lester has pitched at least six innings in his past 18 games, including all 10 with the A's. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs during that span.
"He pitches with a lot of emotion," Doolittle said. "Guys pick up on that and feed on that. They see how committed he is to what he does."
Phillies starter David Buchanan (6-8) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
"He got on a pretty good roll. His aggressiveness was really evident," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's shown very good improvement. He's really making the most of this opportunity. He's come a long way in a lot of ways."
Buchanan had allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his previous six starts.
Howard jumped on Lester's first pitch of the fourth inning for his 22nd homer, a blast that sailed well over the center field fence.
Phillies: INF Jimmy Rollins is getting closer to returning to action after missing nearly two weeks with a left hamstring strain. Rollins needs to show he can run sprints as a final test. ... OF Domonic Brown was scratched from the starting lineup, though no reason was provided. Grady Sizemore replaced him in left field.
Athletics: OF Josh Reddick missed his second game because of a sore neck, sustained when he tripped over first base on Wednesday. A's manager Bob Melvin thinks he will be ready to play on Saturday. ... INF Stephen Vogt (hamstring strain) returned to the lineup after missing 11 games.
Phillies: Jerome Williams (3-2, 2.84) will make his fifth appearance — and second start — against the Athletics this year on Saturday. He is 5-5 vs. the A's in 17 games, including 10 starts.
Athletics: Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.53) makes his first start since a spot outing Aug. 27 at Houston when the A's used a sixth starter to line up their pitchers for a series at the Angels. He is in the rotation for the first time since June 16, when he fractured his right hand. Pomeranz is taking Jason Hammel's spot in the rotation and will be facing the Phillies for the first time since 2012.
HIT BY FOUL:
An Oakland security guard was hit in the head by a batted ball during Athletics batting practice. Stationed near the center field gate, he wobbled after being hit and then sank to the ground. He was carried off the field on a cart and taken to a hospital, where he received several stitches. A's coach Ariel Prieto handed him a ball as he was carried off and exchanged a few words with him.
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