W2W4: Rangers vs. Athletics

The slumping Texas Rangers (40-62) on Friday host the Oakland A’s (63-38), who boast the best record in baseball and have scored a league-high 509 runs.

Here’s a preview:

What’s up with the Rangers?: Well, the same old business lately: Losing. The Rangers lost three of four games to the Yankees in the Bronx to finish 2-5 in their seven-game road trip to start the second half. There is some good news, however. The starting pitching has gotten better, and outside of Yu Darvish's rain-shortened complete-game loss where he went 4 1/3 innings, Colby Lewis (6 1/3), Nick Martinez (5 1/3) and Miles Mikolas (7 1/3) have made it into the sixth inning. That's a trend manager Ron Washington would like to see continue so that the bullpen doesn't wear down.

Oakland is rolling: The A’s are 4-2 since the All-Star break and 23-11 in their last 34 games overall. Starting pitching has been off the charts, and the Rangers will face two of the Athletics' best in RHP Sonny Gray (11-3) on Saturday and LHP Scott Kazmir (11-3) on Sunday. The A’s have scored 87 runs in July, led by Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss.

Head-to-head: The A’s lead the season-series 5-4 and are 3-0 at Globe Life Park. Elvis Andrus is hitting .348 and Shin-Soo Choo is at a .357 against Kazmir. Andrus has just one hit in 11 career at-bats against Gray. Adrian Beltre has two hits in seven at-bats against Friday starter Jason Hammel.

Williams gets call: Jerome Williams is scheduled to start Friday for the Rangers. Williams, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock, hasn’t started a big league game since 2012. He will become the 52nd player and 31st pitcher used by the Rangers this season, both marks being major league highs. Williams has never started against the A's but has posted a 1-0 record with a 5.14 ERA over seven innings in three career relief appearances against them.

Pitching matchups: RHP Williams (1-4, 6.04 with Houston) vs. Jason Hammel (0-2, 9.00 with Oakland and 8-5, 2.95 with Cubs) on Friday; RHP Nick Tepesch (0-1, 4.87) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (11-3, 2.73) on Saturday; Miles Mikolas (1-2, 7.48) vs. Scott Kazmir (11-3, 2.32) on Sunday.