Friday, September 13, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. A's
By Todd Wills
Texas Rangers (81-64, 2nd place/AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (85-61, 1st place/AL West)
Friday: LHP Derek Holland (9-8, 3.17) vs. RHP Dan Straily (9-7, 4.15), 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: RHP Yu Darvish (12-8, 2.84) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (15-6, 2.85), 12:05 p.m.
Sunday: LHP Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (11-6, 3.55), 2:05 p.m.
Here's what to watch for in this weekend's final regular-season series between the Rangers and the A's:
A's have the mo: The A's are roaring down the stretch, winning 13 of their last 17 games. Can the reeling Rangers, who have lost nine of 12, stop Oakland's momentum? That's the biggest storyline entering Friday's first of three games in Arlington. The A's are 8-2 over their last 10 games, gaining five games in the standings on the Rangers to take a 3 1/2-game lead in the American League West. The Rangers have had a disappointing home season, going 39-32 in Arlington, three wins less than they have on the road. It's time to defend their home ballpark after getting swept here by Pittsburgh.
Head-to-head: The Rangers had been the better team in head-to-head action, winning three of the first four series between the clubs before Oakland took two out of three from Texas last week at O.com Coliseum. The Rangers are 9-7 against the A's and will win the season series with a win. That's of little solace with the Rangers being stuck in second place after giving away the division Oakland last year. The Rangers probably have to win the series to have a chance to win the AL West.
Battle of the bullpens: The Rangers will win the series if they can take leads into the late innings. They never led in 27 innings against the Pirates and couldn't rally late. Oakland's trio of left-hander Sean Doolittle, right-hander Ryan Cook and closer Grant Balfour have been used down the stretch. They did get a break with two blowout wins at Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday. The Rangers' triumvirate of lefty Neal Cotts, righty Tanner Scheppers and closer Joe Nathan have dominated the A's, going 3-0 with four saves and a 0.81 ERA for 22 1/3 innings. The Rangers have the best and deepest bullpen in baseball. They need some early runs and good starting pitching so they can take advantage of it.
Can the Rangers beat Parker?: A's ace Jarrod Parker has a nine-game winning streak and was in position to win 10 in a row before the A's blew a late lead to Minnesota on Tuesday. Parker hasn't lost since May 22 to Texas. Parker has destroyed the Rangers otherwise. He is 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight career starts against them. Twice this season he's gone head-to-head against Yu Darvish and beaten him. Parker also beat Matt Garza on Aug. 3 in Oakland. Maybe the Rangers should start long reliever Ross Wolf against Parker. He handed Parker his last loss as the Rangers took a 5 1/2 game lead on the A's.
Needing more from Moreland: The Rangers will face three right-handers against the A's. That means three important starts for first baseman Mitch Moreland. The Rangers didn't homer in the series against Pittsburgh and have gone 35 innings without a long ball since Alex Rios hit a first-inning shot Sunday in Anaheim. Moreland is batting .130 for September, but he does have two homers for the month, including one Tuesday off Saturday starter Bartolo Colon. He has five homers against Oakland this season, all at O.com Coliseum, and two of them against Colon. The Rangers are in dire need of some power and Moreland could be the guy to provide it.