The Texas Rangers took over sole possession of first place in the American League West without even playing a game. Now they look to pad their lead in the opener of a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium.
After losing two of three to Oakland the Rangers fell into a tie atop of the division with the Athletics. However, Texas moved a half-game in front on Thursday when the Athletics dropped the opener of their set with lowly Houston.
"There are no breaks," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler told the team's website. "You have to be ready to win every day. It doesn't matter how you go about it. You have to pitch well, score runs and play defense."
Texas may be in good shape going forward, as it enters this series having won seven in a row from the Angels, a streak that matches its longest in the all- time series. The Rangers, who also won seven straight from the Angels from 1987-88, are 10-2 this season against the Halos.
Hoping to continue that trend on Friday for the Rangers will be righty Matt Garza, who is 3-2 with a 4.04 since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs. Garza pitched well enough to win on Sunday against Minnesota, but he did not get a decision, despite allowing just a run and three hits in seven innings of a 2-1 win.
"I got back into a nice tempo and a nice rhythm," Garza said. "I wasn't pitching bad, but I got back in rhythm and want to keep doing it every time out."
Garza has faced the Angels six times, but is still searching for his first win against them, as he owns an 0-1 mark with a 5.45 ERA against them.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, will counter with former Rangers hurler C.J. Wilson, who pitched in Texas from 2005-11.
Wilson has not lost in nearly two months, with the left-hander having gone 6-0 with a 3.09 earned run average in 10 outings since his last defeat on July 5. His latest win came in Milwaukee on Sunday, as he held the Brewers to three runs (2 earned) and three hits in six innings, upping his overall total to 14-6 to go along with a 3.35 ERA.
"He made key pitches when he had to," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win."
Wilson, though, is 0-2 with an 8.63 ERA in six starts against his former club.
Los Angeles salvaged the finale of its set with the playoff hopeful Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, as Jerome Williams struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings and all nine batters in the lineup recorded at least one hit in the Angels' 6-2 win.
Williams (6-10) allowed both runs on six hits while walking a pair to earn his first victory since June 12. The Angels have won 10 of their last 13 overall.
"I felt good," said Williams. "I just tried to put up zeros and give us a chance to win. I just went out there and did my job."
Josh Hamilton and Luis Jimenez each clubbed a pair of hits and scored twice while Collin Cowgill drove in three in the win.