Athletics-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Considering their recent struggles at the plate, the Texas Rangers have been encouraged about the way they've hit the ball against the Oakland Athletics this week.

Coming off their second big offensive performance in the series, the host Rangers look to take the four-game set from AL West-leading A's on Thursday.

Nelson Cruz and David Murphy each had three hits and Justin Grimm lasted five innings to snap a 17-game winless streak by Texas starting pitchers in Wednesday's 9-4 win over Oakland.

The Rangers (40-32) totaled eight runs and averaged 7.2 hits during a season-high six-game losing streak before winning 8-7 in Monday's series opener with the A's (43-31). After being held to three hits in Tuesday's 6-2 defeat, Texas pounded out 14 to cut Oakland's division lead to two games.

"I think we can go out there now and be competitive,'' Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I think we got the monkey off our back as far as having a total drought offensively. I think some guys are starting do some things all throughout the lineup.

"We start getting more consistent, then we'll get back to playing our baseball.''

Cruz is 6 for 12 with two homers and six RBIs in the series after going 3 for 20 with six strikeouts in the first six games versus Oakland this season.

Murphy was 7 for 50 (.140) in his previous 14 games before he broke out Wednesday.

The Rangers hope to fare better than they did last month against scheduled Oakland starter A.J. Griffin (5-6, 3.93 ERA). The right-hander yielded a home run and struck out eight without a walk in seven innings of a 5-1 victory May 13 to improve to 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA in three starts versus Texas.

Griffin, however, has allowed four runs in four of his last five starts. He served up a grand slam to 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco in a 4-0 loss to Seattle on Saturday to fall to 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA in his last four outings.

"I was just trying for weak contact and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball and he hit it,'' Griffin said. "I watched the video and the pitch went right where (catcher John) Jaso set up, up and in. At the end of the day it's four runs on one pitch."

Chris Young hit a three-run homer and had two of the six hits Wednesday for the A's, who have dropped four of six. Young is batting .192, but is 6 for his last 12 with two home runs and four RBIs.

Young is 0 for 6 with four strikeouts against Texas' Josh Lindblom (0-2, 5.94), who makes his fourth start this season after he allowed four runs on two homers in six innings of a 6-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday.

"Those two pitches, that's been the Achilles' heel of our pitching staff lately," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "One or two pitches cost us."

The right-hander gave four runs and seven hits, including a homer to Seth Smith, over 4 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss to the A's on May 20.

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