Rangers-Athletics Preview


While the Oakland Athletics have been one of the hottest teams in the majors of late, the Texas Rangers are playing pretty well themselves.

With starter Colby Lewis set to come off the disabled list, the AL West-leading Rangers look to sweep a brief two-game road set from the A's on Wednesday.

Oakland (46-44) had won nine of 11, and scored 26 runs during a four-game winning streak that ended Tuesday when Roy Oswalt and four relievers held the A's to five hits in a 6-1 loss.

Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre each hit solo home runs as Rangers (55-35) won for the fifth time in six games since losing five in a row.

Hamilton, who had been 2 for 23 in his previous seven games, struck out each of his first three at-bats Tuesday before he homered in the eighth inning and delivered a sacrifice fly in the ninth to increase his major league-leading RBI total to 78.

"I hadn't really paid attention to it,'' Hamilton said of the slump. "I'm not really panicking at all.''

He's homered in two of his last three games against the A's, driving in six runs in those contests.

After a second straight strong outing from Oswalt, Lewis (6-6, 3.51 ERA) takes the mound for the first time since he was placed on the disabled list June 26 with tightness in his forearm. In his most recent start June 23, the right-hander allowed season highs of eight runs and 12 hits over four innings of an 11-7 loss to Colorado.

He gave up two runs in eight innings of a 2-0 loss at Oakland on June 6 to fall to 7-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 17 starts against the team he played for in 2007.

Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes went 3 for 3 with a double, a triple and drove in a run off Lewis in that contest. The Cuban rookie, who had two hits Tuesday, is 10 for 18 in four games since the All-Star break. He's batting .500 (16 for 32) against the Rangers this season.

The A's hope to have center fielder Coco Crisp back after he missed the last three games with shoulder soreness. Crisp has batted .346 (9 for 26) in his last six games.

"We're a lot closer than we were the last couple days," manager Bob Melvin told the Athletics' official website. "It's just a matter of when he feels comfortable swinging the bat from both sides."

Travis Blackley (2-2, 3.20) returns to the A's starting rotation Wednesday.

The left-hander, who has dealt with some recent back stiffness, is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last four starts but has not made one since July 1, when he allowed a run in seven innings of a 3-1 victory at Texas. This will be his first appearance since pitching three scoreless innings of relief in a 7-1 win over Seattle on July 7.

Blackley is 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA in three career starts versus the Rangers. The lone defeat came June 5, when he allowed five runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-3 home loss.

Hamilton is 1 for 6 with a double against Blackley.