After padding their wild-card lead with a series win against a fellow contender, the Oakland Athletics enter a favorable home stretch versus a pair of last-place teams.
The club opens a three-game series against the Texas Rangers Tuesday night with Scott Kazmir trying to re-establish some sustained success for himself and the team.Oakland (83-66), which has Philadelphia on deck for three games after Texas, took two of three in Seattle over the weekend. After Sunday's 4-0 victory, it has won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks leading into a nine-game homestand, its last of the season.Sam Fuld went 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBIs, and Brandon Moss hit his first home run in 40 games after clubbing 23 in the first 95 games of the season.The Rangers (57-92) have the worst record in baseball, but the A's recent struggles have them taking no one lightly. The A's are just 11-22 since they last won three straight from Aug. 7-9."We take nothing for granted," Oakland manager Bob Melvin told MLB's official website. "The White Sox weren't playing great, and we ended up losing three out of four, so a major league team is a major league team, and we have to play our best to beat them."Kazmir (14-8, 3.32 ERA) is 0-3 with an 8.20 ERA in four starts, though his latest was one of his best of the season. The left-hander threw a four-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Chicago on Thursday for his second complete game of the year.He's won both starts against Texas this season to improve to 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 career outings. Adam Rosales is 6 for 11 with a home run off Kazmir.Texas' Nick Tepesch opposes Kazmir looking to avoid a seventh straight winless start. Tepesch (4-10, 4.47), though, has shown improvement with a 3.89 to accompany his 1/3 record in seven starts since the beginning of August."I think I've gotten to know myself better," Tepesch said. "I definitely feel like I'm better than where I started the year at, or even two months ago. I feel like I'm a better pitcher."The right-hander was hit hard in Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, yielding three runs and a career-high 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings.Oakland has been about as hard on him as Tepesch has gone 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA in three starts and two relief outings. Both of his starts against the A's this season have been losses.The A's dropped the first three meetings in the season series but have gone 7-2 against Texas since. The Rangers dropped two of three in their last visit to Oakland from June 16-19, which started their current run of 28 losses in 35 games within the AL West.Overall, the Rangers have won three straight after dropping 11 of 12, though a five-game road losing streak remains. The latest victory was Sunday's 10-3 win over Atlanta, in which they completed the sweep and matched a season high with 18 hits.Second baseman Luis Sardinas had three of them along with four RBIs."It feels great to help," said Sardinas, who was 6 for 35 in his previous 14 games. "I've been playing good defense, but being able to help also on offense is important."Outfielder Michael Choice went 2 for 3 with three RBIs before leaving with a strained left hamstring. An MRI was scheduled for Monday.
Sonny Gray is throwing his curveball at a rate of 28 percent this season, the second-highest frequency among qualifying pitchers. The Texas Rangers are batting .268 against RHP in at-bats that end in a curveball, the third-highest average in the league this season.