Athletics-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Eight losses in 10 games. From three games up in the AL West to 3 1/2 games back. Struggling at the plate and on the mound.

Yep, it's becoming another September to forget for the Texas Rangers, who host the first-place Oakland Athletics for a crucial three-game series beginning Friday night.

Texas led the West from mid-April to late September in 2012, but it lost nine of its final 13 - including a three-game sweep in Oakland to end the regular season that gave the A's the division title - before losing to Baltimore at home in the wild-card game.

The Rangers (81-64) again are running into problems during the stretch run and were swept by Pittsburgh in a three-game series after falling 7-5 on Wednesday.

Thursday marked their final day off before playing 17 straight to end the season.

"Our heart is still in it. We've just got to do what we have to do to make sure we win ball games, that's all,'' manager Ron Washington said. "I'm not concerned. We'll be ready to play with Oakland coming to town."

Washington surely is trying to remain positive, but he may turn sour if the slump continues. His club held a three-game lead on the A's before play began Aug. 30 but Oakland (85-61) has won 10 of 13 since, including take two of three against Texas from Sept. 2-4.

Adrian Beltre is 5 for 31 (.161) with one extra-base hit over his last eight.

"As a team, we're going through struggles in every phase of the game,'' Beltre said. "Not good enough to win games is the bottom line. We're positive that we're going to get better, and we have to execute.''

The pitching staff also hasn't been very good lately while posting a 5.40 ERA over the last seven, and Derek Holland takes the hill Friday looking to bounce back from his recent struggles.

Holland (9-8, 3.17 ERA) has lost two straight starts, giving up four runs and walking a career worst-tying five in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss to the A's on Sept. 2 before allowing eight runs - four earned - in 5 2-3 frames of Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

The left-hander is winless in six outings since giving up four hits over eight innings of a 4-0 win over Oakland on Aug. 4.

"Our pitching is going to get going again," Holland told the team's official website. "Myself, I've had a couple bad starts here and there. I'm going to turn the page."

Holland is 5-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 11 career starts against the A's, who scored 29 runs while taking two of three from Minnesota in their last series.

Oakland got a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly from Josh Reddick and a pair of RBIs from Yoenis Cespedes in Thursday's 8-2 victory. Cespedes is hitting .419 in 11 games this month, including .458 during a six-game RBI streak.

The A's have lost four of the last five road meetings with the Rangers, though.

"We know it's an important series, but we're not going to sweat about it,'' Reddick said. "We know we can beat those guys.''

The A's look to keep rolling behind Dan Straily, who takes the mound looking to win his fourth straight start.

Straily (9-7, 4.15) has a 1.50 ERA during his winning streak after allowing two hits and striking out seven in seven scoreless innings of Saturday's 2-1 win over Houston.

The right-hander, though, has had mixed results in four starts against Texas this season, going 2-1 with a 5.14 ERA. He gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss May 15, then dominated the Rangers by allowing two hits over seven innings of a 1-0 win May 21.

After giving up six runs in 4 2-3 innings of Oakland's 8-7 loss June 17, he allowed two runs and three hits in five frames to beat Holland on Sept. 2.