The Oakland Athletics rebounded from a rare poor pitching performance by giving the ball to one of their 11-game winners and finding their power stroke offensively.
Now the A's are turning to their other 11-win pitcher as they go for the series win in Arlington.Scott Kazmir looks to extend his outstanding stretch on the mound Sunday night when he tries to lead MLB-best Oakland to its eighth victory in nine road meetings with the baseball-worst Texas Rangers.Oakland starters have the AL's lowest ERA at 3.14, including a MLB-best 2.21 mark since July 3. The A's, however, suffered a 4-1 loss in Friday's opener when struggling Jason Hammel allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings.Sonny Gray made certain Oakland would avoid its first back-to-back defeats since July 11-12 on Saturday. He gave up one run over 6 2/3 innings to win his fifth straight start and 12th on the season in a 5-1 victory.It certainly helped when Yoenis Cespedes, John Jaso, Josh Donaldson and Josh Reddick each connected for home runs in a six-batter span over the sixth and seventh innings for the A's (64-39).Cespedes has a .345 average and three homers while hitting safely in each of his seven games since the All-Star break."Home runs are a big part of our game," said manager Bob Melvin, whose club's four homers were its most since hitting a season-best five May 26.Oakland, which has a two-game lead in the AL West, appears to be in good hands as goes after its seventh win in 10 games.Kazmir (11-3, 2.32 ERA), who owns baseball's fourth-best ERA, has limited opponents to one earned run or fewer while going at least seven innings in three straight starts. The left-hander is also 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA with 69 strikeouts in his last 10.The A's have lost only five times in his 20 starts, though one of those defeats came Tuesday. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- over seven innings in a 3-2, 12-inning home loss to Houston in his first start following the All-Star break."He pitched in the same fashion he has all year for us," Melvin told MLB's official website.Kazmir is 7-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 career starts versus Texas, but 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA in his last four in Arlington. He snapped a three-game losing streak to the Rangers on April 29 when he allowed three runs over five innings in a 9-3 road win.Shin-Soo Choo has gone 5 for 14 with a homer when facing the All-Star, but Alex Rios is batting .217 with 11 strikeouts in his 46 career at-bats and Adrian Beltre is 6 for 29 with 11 strikeouts.The Rangers (41-63), who have dropped 28 of 34, have totaled just nine runs and hit .233 over their last five games.Miles Mikolas (1-2, 7.48) hopes to build on the best start of his career after limiting the Yankees to two runs and four hits over 7 1/3 innings in Monday's 4-2 road win."If I just take what I did there and kind of realize that it doesn't matter so much who's in the box, but the pitches that I make to get outs," said Mikolas, who went 0-2 with a 10.05 ERA in his previous three outings.The rookie right-hander has allowed 14 runs and 21 hits over nine total innings while dropping his two home starts.
Jesse Chavez has thrown his fastball and cutter 68.2 percent of the time this season. He has allowed an ISO of .154 in at-bats ending with those pitches down the middle of the plate, which is 71 points below the league average among qualifying pitchers. The Astros have an ISO of .165 against these types of pitches, third lowest in the AL.
Scott Kazmir throws fastballs and changeups 74.2 percent of the time and is allowing an OPS of .622 in at-bats ending in these types of pitches, which ranks fifth among qualifying pitchers. Elvis Andrus has an OPS of .733 in at-bats ending in fastballs and changeups, which is 71 points below the league average among qualifying batters.