Rangers-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

It was less than a week ago when the Texas Rangers were faced with their largest AL West deficit in four seasons.

On Saturday, they can climb within 1 1/2 games of the Oakland Athletics as the division's top two teams continue their weekend set in the Bay Area.

Mired in a 3-12 skid and a 21-inning scoreless stretch, the Rangers (61-49) were six back of the A's (63-46) heading into Monday's action. Texas hadn't been that far off the division lead since finishing 10 behind the Angels to end 2009.

The Rangers, though, have totaled 20 extra-base hits and are averaging 7.0 runs during a winning streak that hit five with Friday's 8-3 victory.

Oakland, meanwhile, has dropped three in a row after winning seven of nine.

"The offense just woke up at the right time,'' said Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, who increased his team-leading homer and RBI totals to 26 and 75, respectively, with a two-run shot. "We've been quiet for a while. It's a good time to wake up.''

Cruz's regular season could be nearing an end if he's handed a 50-game suspension as part of Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation. It's been reported that MLB will announce the suspended players no later than Monday.

"He's been able to separate, man," said manager Ron Washington, who tied Bobby Valentine for first in team history with 581 victories Friday.

Texas last won six straight during a seven-game surge June 15-22, 2012.

Rangers newcomer Matt Garza (1-0, 1.88 ERA) will try to extend his career-best streak of six straight winning decisions.

The first five in that run came while with the Cubs, and he's lasted at least seven innings in his first two outings in Texas. The right-hander gave up three runs Monday before the Rangers rallied late for a 4-3 victory over the Angels.

Garza has a 1.40 ERA in his last eight starts.

"He's a big-game pitcher," Washington told the team's official website. "He never tries to hide what he is about. What I've seen is the way he was in Tampa Bay. He has a hammer, a changeup and he moves his fastball around. He makes quality pitches in quality situations."

Garza will make his second start in Oakland in a month. He threw eight innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory July 3, an outing Cubs manager Dale Sveum said was the best he had seen Garza pitch in two years.

The Athletics, who have plated five runs in a season high-tying three-game home skid, will try to bounce back with Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.07) on the hill. The right-hander's last decision came at Texas on June 18 when he yielded two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 win.

Parker had posted a 2.39 ERA over his previous 13 starts before walking a career-high seven in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Angels.

"I wasn't as in-command as I want to be," he told the Athletics' official website after giving up six runs in five innings. "... I feel like I kind of let our guys down today, battling and walking guys."

Besides cutting down on free passes, Parker needs more efficient opening innings. His ERA in the first is 7.29 after giving up four runs Sunday.

Parker hasn't struggled against Cruz, retiring him in all 14 matchups, including five times this season. He's 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts versus Texas overall.

Elvis Andrus, 3 for 8 lifetime off Parker, is batting .339 during a major league-best 15-game hitting streak.

Texas has won seven of 11 in this season series.

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