SEA@OAK: Johnson fans Almonte to notch the save

ARLINGTON -- Jim Johnson may be nearing a return to the closer's role he lost less than two weeks into the season.

After collecting 101 saves over the previous two years, Johnson allowed at least two runs in three of his first five appearances while absorbing two losses and a blown save. He's since gained two wins while pitching in innings other than the ninth, and hasn't allowed a run over his last six outings.

Opponents are hitting just .179 against Johnson over that stretch, numbers that may very well suggest he's back to his old form -- his sinker sure looks like it is.

In the meantime, the A's have been utilizing a closer-by-committee approach and playing to matchups, with Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson mostly splitting ninth-inning duties. But Johnson's continued success could change that.

"It has certainly elevated the potential for him to close," manager Bob Melvin said Monday. "He's pitching really well."

Melvin had Johnson warming up in a save situation in Houston on Friday, but his services weren't needed after the A's scored seven runs in the ninth inning.

The All-Star righty entered Monday riding a streak of 20 consecutive saves against American League West competition dating back to Aug. 6, 2012. He has a 0.64 ERA over that 27-game span.

Cespedes' return to lineup still unclear

OAK@HOU: Cespedes exits the game with injury

ARLINGTON -- The A's began a big three-game set in Texas on Monday without Yoenis Cespedes, who is nursing a strained left hamstring back to health.

Oakland's left fielder has missed four consecutive games, and the initial plan was to have him back Tuesday, but even that may now be in question.

"We'll see," manager Bob Melvin said late Monday night. "It's probably 50-50 for tomorrow now. He was a little bit sore today. Whether it was sore from the running he did yesterday, not sure. It will be a late decision tomorrow. I wasn't going to use him at all tonight."

Cespedes injured the hamstring in Thursday's game in Houston, and the injury was immediately deemed a mild one. The A's still don't believe he'll need to go on the disabled list.

They're 2-3 this year in games Cespedes doesn't start, compared to 14-7 when he does.

Worth noting

Brandon Moss set an unusual A's record over the weekend when he was hit by a pitch four times in a four-game set in Houston. That's the most by an A's player in a series of any length since at least 1914.

Melvin said he's never seen a player stand so close to the plate.

"I throw BP to him quite a bit," Melvin said, "and sometimes he looks like a right-handed hitter up there he's so on the plate. Yet you can throw him a ball in, and it looks like it's going to hit him, and he hits it into the right-field seats. So he knows his strengths and weaknesses and where he wants the ball. Really, outside corner for him ends up being middle."