Rangers-Athletics Preview

The Texas Rangers are returning to the site where their bid for a third straight World Series appearance may have essentially ended.

The Oakland Athletics swept three home games from the Rangers to capture an unlikely AL West crown the last time these teams met heading into Monday night's opener of a three-game set.

Texas (24-13) was forced to settle for a wild card after getting outscored 19-9 by Oakland (19-20) on the final three games of 2012. The Athletics earned their first division title in six seasons while the Rangers went on to lose the wild-card game to Baltimore.

These teams are first and second place in the West again, with Texas holding a six-game lead. That probably doesn't mean much since the Rangers led the Athletics by nine games after June 1 last year.

Manager Ron Washington will have Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler back in his lineup after giving those players a day off Sunday. It hardly mattered as the Rangers turned in their highest scoring effort of the season in their fourth straight win, 12-7 at Houston.

"The type of team that I have this year, guys have been getting opportunities to play a little more than I have in the past,'' Washington said. "So I think they're more prepared and more ready to go up there when there's opportunity for them to play and do the job."

Adrian Beltre doubled twice among his four hits, drove in four runs and homered for the second straight game.

Beltre led Texas with four homers and 22 hits in last year's season series with Oakland, as Texas lost 11 of 19 games. Beltre struggled with a .221 average and Kinsler batted .240.

The Rangers had trouble slowing down Derek Norris, who had 10 RBIs while batting .371 in 10 games. The same could be said of how they fared against Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .365 with three homers and 10 RBIs.

Oakland returns home after capping a 3-7 road trip with its sixth loss in seven games, 6-1 to Seattle on Sunday.

The A's are batting .200 with 71 strikeouts and 16 walks over their last seven games. Cespedes is 3 for 26 in that span, Norris 4 for 20, Brandon Moss 4 for 17 and John Jaso 4 for 19.

"You go through ups and downs, but this is not very fun now,'' said Moss, who struck out four times Sunday.

Texas starter Justin Grimm (2-2, 3.45 ERA) has yielded eight runs in dropping consecutive outings after allowing four over 17 innings in his first three of 2013.

The right-hander's lone appearance against the A's came in relief last season.

Oakland will start A.J. Griffin (3-3, 3.83), who posted a 4.15 ERA and did not receive a decision in two 2012 outings against Texas.

The A's are 10-2 in Griffin's career home starts, including one in the postseason. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.39 ERA in those games.

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