Texas (73-56) owns a major league-high 8 1/2-game division lead over a second-place A’s club that’s at the .500 mark, but Oakland (64-64) has held its own head-to-head against the Rangers in 2010. After dropping Friday’s opener 7-3, the A’s improved to 7-7 in the season series as Dallas Braden(notes) pitched a four-hitter in Saturday night’s 5-0 victory.
“It’s big as far as momentum is concerned,” Braden said. “You don’t want to feel like you have the wind knocked out of you in Game 1. It’s big to come back and swing the bats well, play defense well. Obviously those two things are a huge part of any kind of push you want to make.”
Texas is averaging 4.0 runs against Oakland, nearly one full run below its season mark. Saturday’s contest was the Rangers’ first shutout loss at home in 2010.
“We had to win this one,” Athletics catcher Landon Powell(notes) said. “We’re trying to make a run at this thing and they’re seven, eight games up. You can’t afford to lose to them. You have to try to win every game you can against them to make up the most ground.”
One day after Braden became the first A’s pitcher with two shutouts in a season since Tim Hudson(notes) in 2004, fellow left-hander Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.24 ERA) will aim for his third scoreless outing in his last five. That stretch began Aug. 7 with seven scoreless innings during a 6-2 home victory over the Rangers, and continued Tuesday at Cleveland, where he limited the Indians to five hits and a walk in seven innings of a 5-0 win.
“I tried not to overthink,” the 24-year-old Gonzalez said. “Little by little, I’m growing up, keeping my composure.”
Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in four career starts and two relief appearances versus Texas.
The Rangers, who have dropped two of three following a four-game winning streak, will counter with Colby Lewis(notes) (9-10, 3.40). The right-hander is 0-5 in his last seven starts as Texas has supported him with seven total runs in that span. Lewis’ drought includes two strong starts against the A’s in which he allowed two runs and eight hits over 13 innings, but the Rangers lost both games.
Texas did earn a win with Lewis on the mound against Minnesota on Tuesday, when he yielded three runs over 6 1-3 innings of an eventual 4-3 victory.
The Rangers play 20 of 25 on the road after this contest, including a 10-game trip beginning Monday at Kansas City. The A’s also will face a challenge, concluding their own 10-game road swing with four games at the New York Yankees.