Athletics-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics have taken control of the AL West in part because of the Texas Rangers' struggles on their longest homestand of the season.

The A's will try to add to those woes while padding their advantage in a four-game series that begins Monday night.

Oakland trailed by one game in the division after Texas won the opener of an 11-game homestand last Monday. The Rangers (38-31) haven't recorded a victory since, and the A's (42-29) have moved three games ahead.

Texas has been outscored 34-8 in its first six-game losing streak since April 15-21, 2010, and its longest at home since a seven-game skid July 20-Aug. 3, 2005. The Rangers didn't get on the scoreboard until the ninth inning in Sunday's 7-2 loss to Toronto.

Nelson Cruz is 4 for 18 during the skid and Elvis Andrus is 3 for 20.

"We're not the first team to lose six in a row and we probably won't be the last," manager Ron Washington said. "We're tough enough to make it through this challenge."

Facing Dan Straily (4-2, 4.45 ERA) could provide another stern test for the Rangers, who haven't dropped seven in a row since April 18-24, 2008. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last five starts, with the A's winning each time. That stretch started by outdueling Texas' Yu Darvish in a 1-0 road win May 21.

He gave up two runs and three hits in 6 2-3 innings in a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Straily was 1-2 with a 7.27 ERA in the five starts before his win streak and concluded that stretch with a 6-2 loss to Texas on May 15.

"He's on a roll," manager Bob Melvin told the team's official website. "We're giving him more and more rope to face tough at-bats in the game. He's pitching with a lot of confidence right now, and he's been terrific."

Oakland enters having won 22 of 29 but nearly suffered a three-game sweep to Seattle this weekend. The A's scored two runs over the first two games of the series and went scoreless in 13 straight innings before a 10-2 victory Sunday.

A matchup with a struggling Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.30) might help Oakland keep rolling. The right-hander has given up 11 runs over 12 innings in his last two starts. He yielded five over five innings in a 5-2 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday.

Tepesch has also been given a combined six runs of support over his last five starts - not surprisingly - all losses for Texas.

"I think in Tepesch's case, run support has been his biggest enemies," Washington told the team's official website. "He gives up runs, but in his last four or five games, we haven't scored any for him."

This will be Tepesch's first start against Oakland.

"They're a good team," he said. "Any time you play a team within your division, it gives you a chance to gain a whole game and not worry about somebody else to beat them if we take care of business."

The A's and Rangers have split their first six games this season with Oakland winning two of three in Texas from May 20-22.

Oakland's Josh Donaldson, who hit his 10th homer Sunday, is 8 for 23 with three doubles against the Rangers this year.

Cruz is 3 for 20 with a homer and five RBIs in the season series with the A's.