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Rangers-Athletics Preview

AP - Sports

The Texas Rangers used a dominant surge last month to overtake the Oakland Athletics atop the AL West.

Oakland now is in position to return the favor.

The A's can tie the Rangers for the division lead by winning for the seventh time in eight tries as the clubs open a three-game series Monday in Oakland.

Texas was six games behind the A's on July 29, when it began a stretch of winning 13 of 14 with a victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Oakland would go 8-13 from July 30-Aug. 23 and hasn't been in first place since Aug. 9.

The Rangers (79-57), though, fell 4-2 to Minnesota on Sunday and had their lead trimmed to one game after the A's (78-58) beat Tampa Bay 5-1 to complete a three-game sweep.

''We're not looking for help from anybody," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We'll face Oakland on Monday when we get there, and we'll play it and when we finish, we'll leave.''

Though Oakland leads the AL wild-card standings, it would like to avoid the one-game playoff by winning the West, which it did by beating the Rangers on the final day of the 2012 season. Texas, which led the division by four games with six to play, then lost to Baltimore in the wild-card game.

Coco Crisp homered leading off the bottom of the first in Sunday's victory for his second homer in as many days.

"To me, it's pretty exhausting to look at all the wild-card implications right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "I think any team's goal and focus is to win their division so you don't have to deal with that one-game playoff."

The A's held a 3 1/2-game edge in the West over the Rangers ahead of the teams' three-game series last month, though Texas won twice. Derek Holland struck out 10 in eight innings Aug. 4 to help the Rangers win the series finale 4-0, and he'll be on the mound again Monday.

Holland (9-6, 3.00 ERA) is 1-0 with a 2.18 ERA over his last five outings, a stretch that started by beating Oakland. He's 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last nine starts against the A's.

"We've got to take on Oakland for a reason and take some ground, but I've got to do my job and pitch pretty much like I did last time," Holland said.

The left-hander had a rough first inning Tuesday but calmed down to give up three runs in six frames of Texas' 4-3, 10-inning win over Seattle.

Dan Straily will oppose Holland in this contest looking to build off a solid outing of his own.

Straily (7-7, 4.41) went 0-5 with a 5.20 ERA over his previous seven starts since being recalled from Triple-A, but he gave up just one run in six innings to beat Detroit 14-4 on Wednesday.

"If you can't find a way to win that ballgame," Straily said, smiling, "you're in a lot of trouble. Just a great day overall."

The right-hander has gotten into some trouble against the Rangers this season while going 1-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts, but he also allowed just two hits in seven innings of a 1-0 win over Texas on May 21.

Straily, though, gave up six runs - including a two-run homer to A.J. Pierzynski - in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7 defeat the last time he faced the Rangers on June 17. Pierzynski also has a double among his three hits in five at-bats versus Straily.

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