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Ron Washington realized Yu Darvish didn't have his best stuff when he faced the Oakland Athletics a week ago. The Texas manager also knew his ace kept the Rangers in the game long enough to pull out a victory.

That contest began a difficult slump for the A's, who hope to have Yoenis Cespedes back as they open a three-game road set against Darvish and the Rangers on Monday night.

Darvish (1-0, 1.61 ERA) gave up two runs in 22 innings over his first three outings before allowing three runs and four walks in six innings of a 4-3 win over the A's last Monday. The right-hander equaled the amount of walks he issued over his previous starts.

"He wasn't at his best but after that one inning, he began to make pitches," Washington said. "He was good enough to keep us in the ballgame."

Darvish had lost six straight starts against the A's prior to that last outing, and he's 1-6 with a 4.32 ERA against them in his career. Brandon Moss hit a solo homer off Darvish last Monday, and he's 6 for 18 with four home runs and a double in his career against the Rangers starter.

Oakland (15-10) was swept in that three-game set, though, and it has dropped five of seven overall after falling 5-1 to Houston on Sunday. Jed Lowrie and Alberto Callaspo had the only hits for the A's, who played without Cespedes for the third straight game due to a left hamstring strain suffered Thursday.

Manager Bob Melvin didn't want to rush his outfielder, and he's hoping Cespedes will be healthy enough to play in this contest.

"Initially I thought Texas was more realistic for him," Melvin said. "I'm probably still there with that."

Josh Donaldson went 0 for 3 on Sunday after hitting .375 with four homers, five doubles and 10 RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.

"It's frustrating," Donaldson said. "You have to flush it going into the next series, and we have a big series coming up. We want to beat those guys."

The A's couldn't overcome Sonny Gray's early struggles in the finale of the previous series with the Rangers (15-10), who earned a 3-0 victory Wednesday.

After giving up two earned runs through 19 innings over his first three starts, Gray (3-1, 2.25) has allowed three in each of his last two outings. He walked a season-worst four and gave up five hits - including a solo homer to Donnie Murphy - against Texas.

"We've seen a couple games like that, where he fights a little bit early in the game with his command," Melvin said. "But he always finds a way to come back and keep you in the game and fight and get through those tough periods with limited damage."

That marked the first career start against Texas for the right-hander, who will face a Rangers lineup that has been without Shin Soo-Choo since he hurt his left ankle in the series opener against the A's.

Choo has missed five straight after sitting out Sunday's 6-5 loss to Seattle. Texas hasn't decided whether to place Choo on the disabled list.

"We're going to hang on a little longer and see where it goes," Washington told the team's official website. "If we have to make a move when we get back to Texas, we'll make a move. Right now we'll give it a little longer."

Former Athletic Michael Choice has filled in for Choo, going 1 for 4 with an RBI on Sunday. He singled in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win over Oakland on Tuesday.

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