Rangers-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

Fresh off a successful but brief homestand, the Texas Rangers have made a dent in the Oakland Athletics' lead in the AL West this week.

Looking for a fifth straight victory, the Rangers try to further close that gap Friday night when they take on an A's team trying to avoid losing three in a row for the first time in almost three months.

Paced by an undefeated four-game homestand against the Angels and Arizona, Texas (60-49) cut Oakland's lead to 3 1/2 games after the A's totaled two runs while dropping the final two of a three-game home set versus Toronto.

The Rangers have taken six of 10 this season from the A's (63-45), including two of three at Oakland in May.

Yu Darvish matched his major-league high with 14 strikeouts and A.J. Pierzynski homered and drove in three runs during Texas' 7-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Thursday.

The Rangers, who recorded three straight walkoff homers to sweep the Angels, scored 13 of their 27 runs on the homestand via nine homers.

"Our offense has woken up, and the key is to just keep going," manager Ron Washington said. "We knew it was in there, it was just a matter of it coming out, and we're playing as a group."

Pierzynski hit .353 (6 for 17) with two of those home runs during the home stretch.

Teammate Nelson Cruz went 5 for 12 with a homer over those four games, but he's one of 14 players facing possible suspensions as early as this weekend by Major League Baseball because of their relationship to a closed Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Cruz, who left Thursday's game with tightness in his right quad, leads the team with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs.

The Rangers might have a good chance to continue their recent power surge against Oakland's Tommy Milone (9-8, 4.10 ERA). The left-hander is 0-3 with a 4.24 ERA and has allowed four homers in four starts versus Texas - all at Arlington.

He was tagged for six runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-4 loss to Texas on June 19.

Milone gave up a homer and overcame a career high-tying four walks in seven innings of a 3-1 win over the Angels on Saturday.

"I felt good, minus the four walks," Milone said. "I'd like to think that's not the type of pitcher I am."

The Rangers counter with Alexi Ogando (4-3, 3.05), who is 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in two starts since he missed six weeks with shoulder inflammation. He allowed a run and six hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-0 loss at Cleveland on Sunday.

One of the right-hander's two career starts against the A's came May 15, when he gave up two runs in six innings of a 6-2 win at Oakland.

The A's averaged 5.4 runs while winning seven of nine prior to being stymied in the last two by Toronto.

Oakland, which stranded 10 and went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position during Wednesday's 5-2, 10-inning loss, has not dropped three straight since a five-game slide May 6-10.

"You just go out there the next time you step out there on the field and if there's guys in scoring position, we've got to get them across," third baseman Josh Donaldson said.

Donaldson has batted .351 against the Rangers this season but is 1 for 6 versus Ogando.