Rangers make first trip back to Oakland

Much like the last time that the Texas Rangers visited Oakland, they will do so atop the American League West.

Though much more was at stake the last time, the Rangers will still look to remain red-hot with a fifth straight victory and gain a bit of revenge over the struggling Athletics on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.

This set marks the first meeting between the division rivals since the A's swept the Rangers in Oakland to close out the 2012 regular season. Texas went into that meeting needing just one victory to secure the AL West title, but had to instead settle for a wild card spot.

To make matters worse, the Rangers lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the first ever Wild Card Game, while the Athletics lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers.

Oakland did not make much noise this past offseason, while Texas saw slugger Josh Hamilton and catcher Mike Napoli depart as free agents while also trading infielder Michael Young. New additions for the Rangers include designated hitter Lance Berkman and currently injured catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

The loss of Hamilton hasn't been a factor yet. Texas is nine games over .500 (24-13) and is six games up on second-place Oakland for the division lead. Hamilton's new club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, are 10 games off the pace.

The Rangers finished off a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros on Sunday with a 12-7 victory. Adrian Beltre had four hits, one a three-run homer, and drove in four runs, while Leury Garcia tallied three hits, four runs scored and an RBI.

"He's been swinging the bat well and that average is climbing and RBIs are starting to pile up," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Beltre.

Berkman added an RBI double against his old team for the Rangers, who have won seven of their last nine and led 12-1 with 16 hits after five innings of play.

While the Rangers are putting together a nice stretch, the A's are looking to put the brakes on their losing ways. Oakland began the season 12-4, but has lost 16 of 23 since and wrapped up a 3-7 road trip on Sunday with a 6-1 loss at Seattle.

Luke Montz drove in the lone run for the Athletics, who saw starter Tommy Milone surrender five runs on six hits and three walks over five frames. Three of those runs came in the first inning, when he followed a Michael Saunders single and Kyle Seager walk by serving up a three-run homer to Kendrys Morales.

"I think the Seager at-bat was probably the one that got him in the wrong direction, and then, Morales hits a decent pitch that's down for a 3-0 lead, and that was the biggest at-bats of the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Milone's first inning.

A.J. Griffin will try to avoid such a start when he takes the mound tonight for Oakland.

The right-hander picked up his third victory of the season on May 3 with seven scoreless innings at the New York Yankees to snap a two-start slide, but fell right back into the loss column on Wednesday in Cleveland. Griffin was touched for four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and two walks.

Griffin was nearly taken off the hook, but umpires failed to overturn Adam Rosales ruled double with two outs in the ninth inning through video review despite replays appearing to show the ball hit off the railing above the wall for what should have been a game-tying home run.

Major League Baseball later admitted that the umpires made a mistake, but did not alter the outcome of the game.

So, Griffin fell to 3-3 on the year with a 3.83 ERA in seven starts. He has allowed two home runs in each of his three setbacks.

The 25-year-old faced the Rangers twice a season ago, but did not get a decision while giving up four earned runs over 8 2/3 innings.

Texas will start the 24-year-old Justin Grimm in the opener. He has lost consecutive starts since shutting out Minnesota over seven innings of a win on April 26.

Grimm yielded five runs, eight hits and three walks over five innings of a loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday, fanning seven while falling to 2-2 with a 3.45 earned run average in five starts this season.

"It's a little frustrating," said Grimm. "I made some good pitches, but I made some bad ones too. Personally, it just didn't work out for me."

The right-hander faced the A's once in relief a season ago in his only other previous meeting in this series and allowed a run over three innings without a decision.

Last year's season-ending sweep gave Oakland an 11-8 series victory over Texas as the A's won seven of nine at home.