The Texas Rangers know they’re running out of time to make a push for a playoff spot.
They’ll look to make up ground in the AL West when they open a crucial three-game series with the division-leading Oakland Athletics on Friday at Ameriquest Field.
The Rangers (66-63) are in third place in the West, seven games behind the Athletics (72-55). Texas beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Thursday to avoid a four-game sweep, but had won nine of 11 heading into the series.
“It’s already forgotten,” shortstop Michael Young said of the set with the Devil Rays. “We have a new challenge in front of us. We’re playing a team that’s leading our division, so we have to come out and play our best baseball. We’re confident we can respond well.”
The Athletics, meanwhile, have won 21 of their last 27 games, including Wednesday’s 6-0 victory in Toronto. Frank Thomas hit his 475th homer, tying Willie Stargell and Stan Musial for 23rd on the all-time list, and Milton Bradley also connected.
“With the way that things have been happening for us in our division and how things are so tight and so close, we have to take full advantage of the opportunities we’re given in playing those guys,” Nick Swisher said of this series with Texas.
The A’s are 27-14 against AL West opponents this season, but just 6-7 against the Rangers.
Oakland will send ace Barry Zito (13-8, 3.76 ERA) to the mound in Friday’s opener. Zito allowed two runs and eight hits in eight innings of Saturday’s 7-2 win at Kansas City after giving up 10 runs and 18 hits over 10 innings in his previous two starts.
“To have Barry bounce back like that, hopefully that will give us a boost here for the next six weeks or so,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “He used all his pitches. That was typical Barry.”
Zito is 9-2 with a 3.03 ERA in 14 road starts this season, and has won four straight outings away from home.
“I felt a little better out there. My velocity was just a touch better,” said Zito, who is trying to become the fourth pitcher in team history with 100 wins. “I imagine if I keep staying on this path of doing stuff like this, it will be good.”
Zito is 16-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts against the Rangers, his most wins against any team, but just 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in four starts against them this season. He has been strong at Ameriquest, going 10-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 14 starts.
Texas will counter with Edinson Volquez (1-2, 4.02), who allowed three runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss at Detroit on Aug. 17. The start was the third this season for the 23-year-old right-hander and sixth of his career.
“I’ve got some problems with my mechanics,” said Volquez, who has battled a blister on his right thumb since his last start. “My front side was a little open.”
Volquez made his season debut against Oakland on Aug. 7, allowing four runs in five innings of a 7-4 loss.
“I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he’ll do fine,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He won’t be scared. He’s a confident young man. He trusts his stuff.”