Texas Rangers: Grant Balfour

W2W4: Rangers vs. A's

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
11:19
AM CT
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:

PODCAST
Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett and attempts to solve the Rangers' problems.

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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.

W2W4: Rangers-A's

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
8:00
AM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Maybe it's too early to call this a pivotal series for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.

Still, it's pretty big for the Rangers, who go into Oakland for a three-game weekend series trailing the A's by 3 1/2 games in the American League West.

The Rangers can set the tone for what looks like a light schedule in August. After these three games against the A's, Texas doesn't play another game against a team with a winning record until Oakland on Sept. 2.

That's 24 straight games against opponents with losing records, and ugly ones at that (Seattle at 50-57 has the best record of the group the Rangers will see in August). Meanwhile, the A's have 16 games in August against teams that have a winning record.

So win two out of three in Oakland and the Rangers have a big chance to overtake the A's in the AL West.

Here's what to watch for this weekend:

A's out in front: The A's had their lead up to six games in the AL West before back-to-back home losses to the Toronto Blue Jays coupled with three straight wins by the Rangers. Oakland is 7-6 since the All-Star break while the Rangers are 6-8. The A's went 15-10 in July, picking up 4 1/2 games on the Rangers, who were 11-15 for the month. Oakland is a major league-best 43-23 since May 17 with the A's picking up 11 1/2 games on Texas in the standings.

PODCAST
Eric Nadel joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' series with Oakland.

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A's bats go cold: The A's hit .222 for July, the worst team batting average in the majors. They scored 3.72 runs per game for the month. They've been shut out three times in their past 17 games. Sounds like a team that's battled cold stretches like the Rangers. The A's managed a winning month in July because of their pitching and patience at the plate. Oakland hitters lead the big leagues with 402 walks.

Close calls: If this weekend's games are close games, flip a coin. The Rangers have baseball's best winning percentage in one-run games at .643. They are 18-10. The A's are next with a .636 winning percentage. They are 21-12 in one-run games. The Rangers are 3-1 against the A's in one-run games this season.

Avoiding Colon: The Rangers will avoid their nemesis Bartolo Colon, who took a no-decision in the A's 5-2 loss in 10 innings to Toronto on Wednesday. Colon is 19-7 against Texas. Instead the Rangers will get left-hander Tommy Milone on Friday and right-handers Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin in day games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. That trio is 5-3 against the Rangers with Milone carrying a 0-3 record and a 4.24 ERA against Texas. Parker is 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA against Texas in his short career. Griffin is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA.

Can't stop Balfour: He's given the Rangers fits of late and was on the mound when the A's clinched the AL West in the final game of the 2012 season. Balfour is still going strong, though he did have his streak of 44 consecutive saves snapped on July 23 in a 5-4 loss at Houston (it happened on a throwing error by catcher Derek Norris). Balfour still leads the AL in save percentage (96.6 percent) and hasn't allowed a run in 21 of his past 23 appearances. The current Rangers are batting .121 against Balfour. Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and David Murphy all have two hits against him.

Rapid Reaction: A's 3, Rangers 1

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
9:25
PM CT


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers failed to complete the sweep as the Oakland A's took the final game of their four-game series 3-1 to close out the Rangers' 10-game homestand.

Despite taking the loss, Yu Darvish made a claim as to why he deserves All-Star consideration with a good performance. A 25th sellout crowd of 45,741 was on hand as the Rangers missed offensive opportunities.

Some thoughts on the game:

What it means: Texas ends a 10-game homestand with seven wins and has a 50-30 record on the season, still best in the majors. The Rangers hold a 5 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

Yu makes his pitch: As one of five candidates for the final spot on the AL's All-Star roster, Darvish made a solid case as to why he should be the Rangers' record eighth player in the 2012 All-Star game. He was perfect through three innings and had a shutout through four. He also pitched his way out of a jam in the sixth and allowed minimal damage. One of the few blemishes on Darvish's performance was a leadoff home run from Brandon Moss in the seventh inning to put the A's up 3-1. Darvish finished with 11 strikeouts over seven innings and allowed five hits, three earned runs and three walks.

Yu's Ks: Darvish matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts for the third time this season. It was his fifth game with 10 or more strikeouts, most in the AL and tied with R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets for the most in the majors.

Not so fast: Two of the first three Rangers to get hits in the first three innings were caught stealing. Elvis Andrus (first inning) and Yorvit Torrealba (third inning) were picked off after leading too far off first base and getting caught in rundowns. Andrus was caught again trying to stretch his RBI single to a double in the third inning.

Missed opportunities: The Rangers missed multiple chances to increase their early lead or tie the score later. In addition to the three runners lost, the Rangers failed to drive in Nelson Cruz after he hit a two-out double in the second. Craig Gentry hit a leadoff ground-rule double that was inches away from being a home run in the sixth, but he never reached home thanks to three fly outs from the top of the lineup.

Almost deja-vu: The A's almost saw a flashback of Friday night's eighth-inning collapse. Grant Balfour, who allowed the four-run inning Friday, was on the mound for the A's. Torrealba got a leadoff single and was moved over when Ian Kinsler reached first on an error by third baseman Brandon Inge with one out. But Balfour got Andrus fly out, then Jerry Blevins relieved and induced Josh Hamilton to pop out and end the threat.

Strikeout All-Star: Starting All-Star catcher Mike Napoli, who was playing first, extended his streak to 12 games with at least one strikeout. He waved at strike three for the second out in a 1-2-3 fifth inning and again with Cruz on first base to close out the seventh.

They say it's your birthday: Cruz went 2-for-4 with a double on his 32nd birthday. He has made a habit out of playing well on his birthday, going 5-for-12 in his career. On his birthday last year he went 2-for-5 with a home run, a triple and six RBIs.

Up next: The Rangers have an off-day Monday before they travel to Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox. Here are the probable starters for the series:

Tue. at CWS: RHP Roy Oswalt (2-0, 4.26) vs. LHP Chris Sale (9-2, 2.27), 7:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.

Wed. at CWS: RHP Scott Feldman (2-6, 6.13) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.50), 6:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW/ESPN.

Thu. at CWS: LHP Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 2.19), 1:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Colby Lewis
WINS ERA SO IP
10 5.18 133 170
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .324
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182