A year ago, the Oakland Athletics were on the verge of winning the AL West title. On Sunday, they’ll try to avoid taking another step toward last place in the division.
The slumping Athletics (69-74) look to avoid a three-game sweep by the surging Texas Rangers as the teams close their weekend series on Sunday.
Oakland has lost 10 of its last 14, including the first two games of this series with Texas (67-74). The Rangers won 7-3 on Saturday to pull within a game of the Athletics in the division standings.
The A’s have played two more games than the Rangers, and if Oakland should lose, it will be less than one percentage point ahead of Texas.
“Nobody wants to finish in last place,” said Oakland’s Nick Swisher, who had two hits Saturday.
The Rangers have been in the AL West basement since April 25, but have won 11 of their last 13. Texas has finished third in the West each of the last three seasons.
“If we move into third place you’ll get a hooray out of me,” Texas rookie manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official Web site.
The Rangers had 13 hits Saturday, including three by Marlon Byrd. Hank Blalock homered and had three RBIs, and Ian Kinsler added his 19th homer. Kinsler finished with two hits, and is batting .483 (14-for-29) in his last seven games.
Kevin Millwood (9-11, 5.30 ERA) will try to help the Rangers complete their first three-game home sweep of the A’s since September 2004. He struggled in his last start, allowing six runs and eight hits in five innings against Kansas City on Tuesday.
Millwood also struck out seven and walked three, but escaped without a decision after Texas rallied to win 9-8.
The Rangers are hoping for an extended outing from Millwood to relieve a weary bullpen after Saturday’s starter, rookie Luis Mendoza, lasted just two innings in his major league debut before leaving with a bruised left knee after being struck with a line drive by Swisher. Texas used four relievers after Mendoza left.
Millwood is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA in eight starts against the Athletics, and 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against them this year.
Lenny DiNardo (8-8, 3.70) counters for Oakland and is looking to bounce back after losing his last two decisions. The left-hander has an 8.31 ERA over his last three starts, and allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings on Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“The loss takes away every good pitch I threw, in my opinion,” DiNardo told the Athletics’ official Web site.
DiNardo is 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in three starts and three relief appearances against the Rangers. All three starts have come this season, in which he’s allowed seven runs - four earned - over 18 1-3 innings for a 1.96 ERA.