Rangers open big series with Athletics

With the Oakland Athletics not making it a habit of losing many games in a row, the Texas Rangers have had a hard time making up ground in the AL West.

The Rangers, though, can take matters into their own hands this weekend. They'll start by trying to deal the A's their longest losing streak in almost three months in Friday's opener of a three-game set between division rivals.

Oakland has held first place in the AL West every day since July 2, when it took a half-game lead over Texas. The A's have led the division by as many as six games since, but consecutive losses for the first time since July 19-20 as well as a four-game win streak by the Rangers has that current edge at 3 1/2 games over Texas.

The Athletics picked up a fourth straight victory by taking the opener of a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday, but lost the final two contests of the series to fall to 4-3 on a 10-game homestand.

Oakland will now try to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since a five-game slide from May 6-10.

The A's lost Wednesday's finale with the Blue Jays 5-2 in 10 innings, with Eric Sogard scoring both runs on Toronto errors.

"There were points in the game where they were almost trying to give us the game, and we weren't able to take advantage of it," A's third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "You just go out there the next time you step out there on the field and if there's guys in scoring position, we got to get them across."

Texas has taken advantage by posting its longest winning streak since taking five in a row from June 19-23. The Rangers had lost 12 of 15 before their current win streak, which saw them sweep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with three straight walk-off wins before routing Arizona 7-1 in a make up game on Thursday.

Yu Darvish matched a career high with 14 strikeouts in Thursday's win, the second time he has fanned that many Diamondback batters this season. He scattered five singles and did not walk a batter over seven scoreless innings.

"(Darvish) was just outstanding tonight. Everything he threw up there, they just couldn't get on," said Ron Washington, who picked up his 580th career win as manager, one shy of Bobby Valentine for the most in Rangers history.

Texas got solo homers from A.J. Pierzynski, Mitch Moreland and David Murphy, but also saw outfielder Nelson Cruz leave in the bottom of the seventh inning with tightness in his left quad.

The Rangers will play 10 straight on the road and turn to Alexi Ogando for tonight's opener.

The right-hander has made two starts since missing six weeks of action due to a shoulder injury. He has given up four runs and 12 hits over that spanning, logging a combined 9 2/3 innings.

In a loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Ogando allowed a run over 4 2/3 innings, but took a 6-0 loss. He fell to 4-3 with a 3.05 earned run average in 12 starts this season.

The 29-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 career meetings with the Rangers. He faced them for the second time as a starter on May 15 and logged a win in Oakland, logging six innings of two-run, four-hit ball.

Countering for the Athletics is Tommy Milone, who has won three of his past four decisions and is coming off a 3-1 win over the Angels on Saturday. He allowed a run on four hits and four walks over seven innings, striking out six.

"I was just going out there and trying to keep our team in the game," said Milone. "We have the lineup and the guys to get it done and luckily we did."

The 26-year-old lefty is 9-8 with a 4.10 ERA in 21 starts this season and 0-3 lifetime versus the Rangers with a 4.24 ERA in four starts.

Milone was tagged for six runs over just 5 1/3 innings of a loss at Texas on June 19.

The Rangers have won six of 10 versus the Athletics this season.