Texas Rangers: Oakland A's

W2W4: Rangers in Oakland for 3-game set

June, 16, 2014
For the first time since the end of April, the Rangers and Oakland A's will meet in a three-game set in Oakland, California. Since the two last saw each other, much has changed.

The A's won't see Prince Fielder or Mitch Moreland, who are both out with injuries. They won't see Martin Perez, who can't return until some point in 2015 after undergoing elbow surgery, or Matt Harrison, who had spinal fusion surgery.

When both teams woke up on May 1, the A's were three games up on the Rangers after sweeping them in Arlington, Texas. Now, a month and a half later, they enter the series eight games ahead of Texas. A few things to watch:

Yu Darvish: The ace has a block when it comes to Oakland. He's 1-7 with a 4.73 ERA in nine career outings against the A's. He has 61 strikeouts and 29 walks, a K/BB ratio far worse than his norm. The A's have hit .247 against him, the highest of any opponent he's faced at least four times in his career. It's worth noting that his team has only produced 2.19 runs of support on average, but even doubling that output wouldn't alter Darvish's record much against the A's.

So can he overcome that against the A's on Tuesday? Oh, I should mention he has a 7.71 ERA in three career starts in Oakland? Clearly, the A's have owned him a bit. Let's see if Darvish can change that in this series.

Leadoff spot: It was Leonys Martin's job this weekend in Seattle and was 3-for-11 with a .333 on-base percentage (higher than what he was doing at the leadoff spot last season) and got the winning hit on Saturday. How will he do as the competition increases? Will manager Ron Washington plug him in and leave him there for a while to see how he does?

Consistency: Can Alex Rios just keep going steady? The right fielder is hitting .327 with a team-high 32 RBIs. He's 6-for-21 in six games against Oakland but with only two RBIs.

Quality start: As we discussed earlier today, getting a quality start out of the starting pitchers is critical. Colby Lewis pitches Monday and hasn't had a quality start all season. In fact, he's pitched only six innings once in his 11 starts. He hasn't faced the A's this season, but since 2010, Lewis is 5-4 with a 3.03 ERA against the A's. On the road, he's even better with a 2.44 ERA and a .193 opponent batting average against Oakland. So he won't be intimidated by the AL West leaders.

Slumping Donaldson: It's a surprise to see Josh Donaldson, who's been one of the top hitting infielders in the AL all season, in a slump. But he's just 2-for-40 in his past 10 games with a homer and two RBIs. In fact, he went 33 at-bats without a hit until an RBI single on Sunday against the New York Yankees. He's 7-for-26 with four RBIs in six games (28 plate appearances) against the Rangers this season.

Ugly series has Rangers ready to move on

April, 30, 2014
There was no blame game after the Oakland A's completed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 12-1 clocking on Wednesday. How can you point fingers when every facet of the game breaks down?

The Rangers didn't swing the bats well on Wednesday as A’s starter Jesse Chavez held everybody but Prince Fielder without a hit for the first seven innings. That single came in the first inning, and it was just the second hit of this series for Fielder. Texas certainly couldn’t play defense, managing two throwing errors on the same play and two errors in the same inning by a struggling Elvis Andrus. He aptly described them as “little league” mistakes. And they didn’t pitch particularly well either, as Robbie Ross just kept throwing fastballs but didn’t appear to change speeds much. The A’s, as you might expect, got a quick feel for Ross’ fastball, and when he made a mistake, they punished him for it.

In fairness to Ross, grading him on Wednesday is difficult given the defense behind him. But by the time the evening was over, the A’s had scored a touchdown complete with extra point in the third inning and added five more runs the rest of the game to win 12-1.

They completed a sweep of the Rangers with a combined score of 25-4 in the three games, which on paper should have been close. They weren’t.

Wednesday’s discombobulated effort left manager Ron Washington with a dilemma: call an early-season meeting despite a record above .500 and a sweep of the A’s just last week or let his team use Thursday’s off day to mentally bury the series forever.

The skipper, who reads a clubhouse with the best of them, chose the latter.

“They beat us,” Washington said. “They beat us soundly. Right now I’m thinking about Anaheim. We didn’t play well enough to win. You don’t play well enough to win, you’ve just got to keep going. We’ll get back to where we were, but [Wednesday] we just didn’t do it.”

Andrus in particular seemed off. He has just one hit in his last 28 at-bats and has seen his average go from over .300 to .229. He doesn’t think that frustration carried over into the field, but he watched a tailor-made double play ball go under his glove and between his legs in the third, moments after he had a throwing error. He came out in the sixth inning, watching the rest of the game from the dugout as Washington wanted to give him a break more than send any kind of message.

“That was one of those days you just want to get over,” said Andrus, who has seven errors, half of his total from last season (14 in all of 2013). “That was not a fun game. Nothing else you can do but turn the page, clear my mind, learn from it and be ready for the next series.”

Andrus might as well have been speaking for the team. Many of the players talked about moving on and refocusing for the Angels this weekend.

It seems like since that Kyle Seager three-run home run on Sunday, which turned what appeared to be a sure victory into the start of a four-game losing streak, the Rangers have been out of sorts. Oakland outplayed Texas in all areas. They got quality innings from their starters -– 21 of the 27 contested -– and timely hits. Their defense was solid as well. Texas got just 11 1/3 innings from a trio of starters, including the top two in Yu Darvish and Martin Perez. The bats seemed to lose all power in the series, hitting just two extra-base hits and no home runs. Texas was 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and couldn’t really put any kind of pressure on the A’s.

“I don’t think anybody wants to remember that one,” Mitch Moreland said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but it’s a long season. We’ll start off with a fresh month when we get to Anaheim and have another good one. I don’t think that series kills us. It definitely didn’t go the way we wanted, but we’ll play them again. We have to keep going and keep grinding.”

The scuffling play to finish the month obscures the fact that the Rangers did what they wanted to do with all of their injuries: hang around. They are three games back of Oakland now and a half-game up on the Angels, who host Texas for three games starting Friday.

The Rangers might not have any momentum at the moment, but they played well enough to stay in the middle of a tight race early in the season.

Now, they’ve got to find a way to mentally move on and focus on getting the bats going a little more consistently.

“I think if we can get healthy and stay healthy, that would help us,” Moreland said. “We’ve had bits and pieces here and there and we need to have everyone play together. I think if we keep grinding and sticking with our approach, we’ll get to where we need to be.”

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 12, Rangers 1

April, 30, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Oakland Athletics completed a sweep of the Texas Rangers, beating up starter Robbie Ross in a monster third inning, eventually winning 12-1. Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: A seven-run third inning decided things. Ross fed the A's a steady diet of fastballs. The problem: They were all at about the same speed and too many were up. The A's, as the Rangers have discovered during the series, rarely miss mistakes. The Nos. 1 to 7 batters in the order all scored in the third, though only three were earned. Elvis Andrus had two errors in a long inning that required Ross to throw 43 pitches.

What it means: Oakland's sweep counters the Rangers' sweep in Oakland last week, meaning the teams are 3-3 against each other and the A's have a three-game lead in the AL West.

Deficient defense: The Rangers were anything but crisp in the field. Andrus had two errors in that seven-run third inning, one on a high throw and the other on what appeared to be a double-play ball that instead when right through his legs. The A's just kept scoring runs, eventually taking the lead by a touchdown in the inning. In the fourth, the Rangers had two more errors -- on the same play. Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre were both given errors for throws that helped two runs score.

Short starts: The Rangers didn't have any of their starting pitchers make it out of the fifth inning in this series. Ross wasn't helped by his defense but still gave up 10 runs (six earned) on 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings. For the series, Rangers starters had a 14.29 ERA and gave up 24 hits in just 11 1/3 innings. And that trio included Yu Darvish and Martin Perez.

Andrus struggles: Things haven't gone Andrus' way of late. He came into the game with one hit in his past 26 at-bats and was 0-for-2. But it was his fielding that was particularly lacking with the two errors in the third. Perhaps his struggles at the plate have impacted him in the field? Difficult to know, but it was a short night for Andrus, who was lifted in the sixth as Josh Wilson moved to shortstop and Dan Robertson came in to play second. Andrus had 14 errors all of last year. He has seven in the first month of 2014. He was 0-for-10 in the series, and the ball never got out of the infield.

One homer: It took nearly the entire series, but Oakland's Coco Crisp hit the first home run for either club in the sixth inning. There has never been a three-game series at Globe Life Park that didn't include a home run. The Rangers haven't hit a home run in six straight games and had just two extra-base hits in the series.

Bullpen work: Since Nick Martinez was needed to eat innings Monday because of Darvish's short start, the Rangers were without a long man. They decided to roll with it, since they had some rested arms, and hoped that Ross would eat innings. But he wasn't able to do that. So Alexi Ogando, Shawn Tolleson, Aaron Poreda and Joakim Soria were needed to finish the game despite the lopsided score.

Oakland's starters: While the Rangers' starters weren't able to get through the A's lineup with much success, the A's arms did a nice job against a Rangers offense that has been inconsistent. Sonny Gray threw a complete-game shutout Monday. Scott Kazmir went only five, but got the win after allowing three runs. And Jesse Chavez had seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out eight.

First big league hit: After playing in more than 700 minor league games, Robertson can say he has a hit in the big leagues. His first one came in the ninth as he sent a roller down the third-base line that eventually hit the bag for an infield hit.

Up next: The Rangers have an off day before heading to Anaheim for a three-game series against the Angels, who are just a half-game behind the Rangers for second in the AL West. The pitching matchups:

Friday (FSSW/570 AM): RHP Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.60 ERA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (0-4, 4.44 ERA), 9:05 p.m. CT.

Saturday (FSSW/103.3 FM): LHP Matt Harrison (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (2-0, 2.53 ERA), 8:05 p.m. CT.

Sunday (FSSW/103.3 FM): RHP Yu Darvish (1-1, 2.59 ERA) vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-0, 3.34 ERA), 2:35 p.m. CT.

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 9, Rangers 3

April, 29, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers 9-3 on Tuesday, clinching the three-game series. They'll have a chance at a sweep -- something the Rangers did to them in Oakland last week -- on Wednesday. Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: Like the A's did to Yu Darvish on Monday, the disciplined A's hitters laid off Martin Perez's pitches outside the zone. On Tuesday, that was Perez's changeup, usually a swing-and-miss pitch for him that instead became a gaggle of balls as the A's avoided the pitch and waited on the fastball. Perez then threw too many of those up in the zone, and the A's didn't miss, collecting eight hits to drive in eight runs off him.

What it means: The A's are guaranteed to leave Arlington (and end April) in first place in the American League West. The question now is whether it will be a one-game lead or a three-game advantage.

Scoreless streak ends: Perez came into the game with 26 straight scoreless innings. The streak ended quickly as the A's scored twice in the first inning on a two-run double by catcher Derek Norris with two outs. Leonys Martin made a diving attempt on the hit, but couldn't get to it.

Two-out walks: All three walks for Perez were costly. Perez walked Yoenis Cespedes in the first with two outs, and he scored on Norris' double. In the fifth, two two-out walks ended Perez's night, the second a walk with the bases loaded to make it 5-1. Jason Frasor came in and he walked Craig Gentry with the bases loaded, then gave up a two-run single to give the A's an 8-1 lead.

ERA doubles: Perez came in fresh off two complete-game shutouts and sporting a 1.42 ERA. The eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings increased his ERA to 2.95.

Turning on the jets: Adrian Beltre did something he rarely does in the fourth inning: He scored from first on a double. Alex Rios hit a double that was out of the reach of Gentry at the wall in left and Beltre never stopped. He slid in safely at home with the Rangers' first run.

Wrong routes?: Michael Choice had a tough night in the field, taking some circuitous routes to fly balls in left off a few A's bats. That included a double by Josh Donaldson in the fourth that went off Choice's glove near the wall. It wasn't a routine play, but it looked as if Choice could have had it.

Briefly: Gentry, a former Ranger, singled to lead off the second inning in his first at-bat against his former team in Arlington. He later scored the third run of the game. … Alberto Callaspo made a heads-up play in the fourth, throwing home immediately on a ground ball by Martin to get Rios caught in a rundown. Rather than take the easy out at first, Callaspo prevented a run. … Dan Robertson made his major league debut, pinch running for Shin-Soo Choo in the seventh inning.

Up next: LHP Robbie Ross (1-1, 2.45 ERA) goes up against RHP Jesse Chavez (1-0, 2.32 ERA) in the final game of this three-games series at 7:05 p.m. CT on FSSW and 570 AM. This is the last game between Oakland and Texas until June 16, when the two teams play again in California.

Rapid Reaction: Athletics 4, Rangers 0

April, 28, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Oakland Athletics scored four runs off Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray held the Rangers' offense down in a 4-0 victory. Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: Darvish was off his game. The fastball command wasn't there and the A's took advantage, scoring four runs off Darvish and chasing him after 3 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his big league career. Gray pitched a complete-game shutout, holding the Rangers to three hits.

What it means: The A's beat the Rangers for the first time this season and took sole possession of first place in the AL West, as well. The Rangers fall to 9-7 at home, still the best mark in the division and one of the best home records in the AL.

Short stay: Prior to Monday, Darvish's shortest start was four innings in May 2012, his first season in the big leagues. Monday’s early hook ended a streak of 56 straight starts of at least five innings pitched, a club record and the third-longest active streak in the majors. Darvish's fastball command deserted him. He wasn't able to recover, as the A's fouled pitches off, got his pitch count up and then took advantage of pitches over the middle of the plate.

Run shortage: Once again, Darvish was on the mound and the Ranger bats went quiet. Blame Gray, who was efficient and in control. Darvish needed 83 pitches to get through 3 1/3 innings and Gray needed 87 to get through seven innings. The Rangers' offense never got going, with only two baserunners even getting into scoring position.

Saving pen: Nick Martinez, who has started two games for the Rangers this season, came in to start the fifth inning and was able to save the bullpen despite Darvish's abbreviated outing. He went the rest of the way to prevent any more arms from wearing down. That could be critical later this series.

No. 9 hitter: It was a good night for No. 9 hitters. Eric Sogard, who came in with a .204 average, managed to walk twice off Darvish. He scored a run in the third after his one-out walk. Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos was hit by a pitch in the third and singled in the sixth. For a fairly silent Rangers offense, that constituted a good night.

Great catch: Leonys Martin made a terrific catch and then threw back to first for a double play to end the eighth inning. Martin took a possible home run away from Daric Barton in the eighth, reaching up at the top of the wall in front of the Rangers' bullpen to make the catch. He then threw the ball back to first to double up Josh Reddick.

Replay fun: Replay was used three times in the game -- twice on Rangers challenges and once at the request of the umpires. The Rangers went 1-for-2 on challenges, both on plays at first base. The first one came in the third inning; Brandon Moss didn't get back to the bag in time on a wild pitch and was thrown out by Chirinos as Fielder did a good job of blocking the bag. The second one, in the eighth inning, didn't go the Rangers' way as Fielder couldn't get a tag applied before Reddick got back. Then, after Martin's catch, the throw came in and Reddick was called safe as he scampered back to first. Replays showed Fielder was on the bag before Reddick got back and the call was overturned.

Up next: LHP Martin Perez (4-0, 1.42 ERA) goes up against LHP Scott Kazmir (3-0, 1.62 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. CT in the second game of the three-game series.

W2W4: Top-2 AL West teams in Arlington

April, 28, 2014
Yu DarvishLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesWill the Rangers be able to score more runs against the A's with Yu Darvish on the mound?
For the second time in a week, the Texas Rangers will face the Oakland A's in a three-game series. This one is at Globe Life Park in Arlington, the first time the A's have played in Arlington this season. A few things to watch during the series:

* Yu Darvish gets another crack at Oakland. The Rangers' ace faces RHP Sonny Gray in the series opener tonight after going six innings last week in Oakland, allowing three runs on eight hits with four walks and six strikeouts. It wasn't Darvish at his best, but it was good enough for a no-decision in a 4-3 win. Still, Darvish's career numbers against Oakland aren't pretty. He won his first career start against the A's, but is 0-6 with a 4.89 ERA in his last seven starts.


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* Run support. In those last seven starts for Darvish against Oakland (0-6 record), the Rangers have scored two or fewer runs in five of the six defeats. This season in four starts (28 innings), Darvish has five runs of support -- a 1.61 average. Can the Rangers score enough runs to get a win?

* Scoreless streak. Can Martin Perez continue his assault on the Rangers' record book? He has 26 consecutive scoreless innings. The club record is 39 by Kenny Rogers in 1995. But Perez has another streak going: two straight complete game shutouts. He's the first to do that in the AL since teammate Derek Holland pulled off the feat in 2011. He's one of only eight pitchers since 1992 to throw two shutouts while allowing three or fewer hits. That list includes Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Matt Cain.

* Pitching matchups. Of the six pitchers scheduled to start in this series, the one with the highest ERA is Robbie Ross at 2.45. That should make runs at a premium and set up for a fun three games involving a trio of starters on each side that has started the season well.

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Skipper trying to figure out bullpen depth

April, 28, 2014
Sunday's ending in Seattle was a surprising way to end what was looking like a very solid road trip for the Texas Rangers. And in many ways it was still solid, sweeping the Oakland A's and finishing the six games tied with the A's for first.

But like so many things in life, it's how you finish and not how you start (ask the Dallas Stars this morning). The Rangers open a three-game series tonight with the A's. It's a good time to have Yu Darvish on the mound after the eighth-inning meltdown Sunday. Actually, Texas had two eighth-inning meltdowns in the series in Seattle, which cost them a chance to take the AL West lead all by themselves.

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezAlexi Ogando threw an awful pitch to Kyle Seager, who didn't miss it for the go-ahead three-run homer Sunday.
The great thing about baseball is that there are so many opportunities to make decisions that have ripple effects. While the discussion can be fun and the strategy intriguing, it's also a reminder of how difficult it is to be a big-league manager. One decision to pitch to a certain batter or put a particular pitcher in the game can decide things, both good and bad.

Manager Ron Washington (along with his coaching staff) was in that position late in Sunday's game. The Mariners had chipped away at the lead and Washington was hoping to give his winning bullpen pieces a day off. Up 5-0, that looked promising. It was 5-2 when Shawn Tolleson came in and it became a two-run game fairly quickly after that.

So do you go with Jason Frasor in the seventh inning when it's a two-run game? Washington said no. He explained afterward that other pitchers have to get outs in the bullpen. That it can't always come down to the same arms, who risked being overworked. The skipper is right, of course. And April is the time to find some of that out. He did that with Aaron Poreda on Saturday and it worked. But when the other arms don't get it done and a 5-0 lead dwindles, it's natural for criticism to follow.

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Rangers bullpen holding its own with A's

April, 25, 2014
Shawn TollesonKelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsShawn Tolleson is one of several relievers who have made the pen an early bright spot for Texas.

So much for conventional wisdom. April in the American League West is yet another reminder of why you have to play the games before you can truly figure out where everyone stands. It's not a surprise that the top three teams in this division are the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. On paper, those are the three best teams. Sure, the Seattle Mariners improved during the offseason, but it takes more than one $240 million player to compete with the trio at the top over the long haul.

What is surprising is how the Rangers have managed to win games despite all of their injuries. We've talked a bunch about this club's supersubs and how this rotation has come together. Heck, on Tuesday, the Rangers were playing with Michael Choice at leadoff, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy in the lineup and a Double-A spot starter on the mound. And they won.

But there's another big reason for the club's early success: the bullpen. Texas has put together a group that is confident and comfortable in their roles, while Oakland's relief corps, considered one of the best in baseball, hasn't looked as good as billed, especially in the ninth.

Consider how good the Athletics' record might be if they hadn't blown six saves. Six! On the season, they have more blown saves than saves (five). Only the Chicago White Sox have a worse percentage in the league. This is a case in which the other numbers look better than they appear. Oakland's pen has a 2.55 ERA, second in the league. The A's are holding opponents to a .198 batting average against, the best in the league. But the relievers throw the second-most pitches per inning in the AL, and in crunch time -- when you need those final three outs in the ninth -- they haven't consistently done the job. Jim Johnson was moved out of the closer's role, and replacement Luke Gregerson hasn't found his rhythm. The A's were in position to win the first two games of their recent series with Texas and couldn't close the deal. They had Wilson, a backup utility infielder, down to his final strike in the ninth Tuesday and still lost the game.

The Rangers' bullpen doesn't have the gaudy numbers of the A's'. The Rangers are in the middle of the AL in ERA, nearly two runs higher than the A's. Opponents are hitting .259 off them. But Texas also has the third-most holds in the league, has blown only two saves and has a quartet of pitchers who are nailing games down late in winning or close situations. Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria have delivered. Others are contributing in key spots, too: Shawn Tolleson was called upon to keep things tight Tuesday and did so, allowing the Rangers a chance to make the comeback in the ninth.

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Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Athletics 4

April, 23, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Texas Rangers rallied to score two runs in the top of the ninth inning and defeated the Oakland Athletics 5-4 Tuesday night at the O.co Coliseum.

The Rangers beat the A's for the second straight time and will go for a series sweep Wednesday afternoon.

With the Rangers trailing 4-3 entering the top of the ninth, pinch hitter Mitch Moreland rocketed a leadoff double off Luke Gregerson to right center, then moved to third on Robinson Chirinos' sacrifice bunt.

Moreland tried to score after Leonys Martin bunted, despite no sign being given for a safety squeeze of any kind. Gregerson easily threw Moreland out at home. But Martin stole second, then scored on Josh Wilson's double off the left-field fence.

Outfielder Michael Choice singled sharply to center, driving in Wilson with the go-ahead run.

Joakim Soria came on to pitch a perfect ninth for his fifth save in five chances.

Kouzmanoff's early exit: Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, the reigning American League Player of the Week, left the game after the top of the fourth inning because of tightness in his back. Rookie Luis Sardinas entered the game at second base, and Wilson moved from second to third.

Figueroa injured: Rangers left-hander Pedro Figueroa left the game with an undisclosed injury after throwing only one pitch in the eighth. With a runner on first, Figueroa hit Josh Reddick in the side with a 90 mph fastball. Rangers trainers came out to examine Figueroa, and he left the field for the clubhouse.

Costly error: Wilson made a fielding error in the fourth on the first chance he had, leading to two unearned runs. After A's catcher John Jaso singled with one out, Reddick hit a routine double-play ground ball that got past Wilson. Jaso went to third, and Reddick hustled into second base. Eric Sogard hit a sacrifice fly, bringing Jaso home, and Coco Crisp followed with an RBI double.

Stressful night: Rookie Nick Martinez, who was called up from Double-A Frisco, gave up four runs, just two of them earned, and six hits over five innings. Martinez (0-1) walked three and struck out only one. He threw 92 pitches, only 50 for strikes. Martinez had only one stress-free inning, a one-two-three third. He had runners on base in every other inning. He gave up two doubles and a single in the first inning and was fortunate to allow only two runs.

Leading off: Choice started in left field in place of the injured Shin-Soo Choo (sprained left ankle) and took Choo's spot atop the order. Choice hit leadoff for the first time since his freshman season at the University of Texas-Arlington, but he looked like a natural. In the first inning, he worked a 3-2 count off Tommy Milone, then walked. He walked again with one out in the second inning, working another full count.

Early offense: For the second straight game against Oakland, the Rangers grabbed the first lead. On Monday night, Choo led off the game with a home run. This time the Rangers struck for two runs in the first inning, using two singles and three walks.

Up next: Rangers left-hander Martin Perez (3-0, 1.86 ERA) will face A's right-hander Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.80) in a battle between undefeated pitchers Wednesday afternoon in the series finale. First pitch is scheduled for 2:35 p.m. CT on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, A's 3

April, 22, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Texas Rangers overcame an early 3-1 deficit to defeat the Oakland A's 4-3 Monday night in the opener of a three-game series against the two-time defending American League West champions.

Rangers third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a leadoff double in the eighth against his former team, moved to third on Mitch Moreland's sacrifice bunt and scored on Donnie Murphy's sharp single to center, giving Texas a 4-3 lead.

Another no-decision: Right-hander Yu Darvish gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings and received his third straight no-decision. Considering his past luck against Oakland, Darvish can't complain. Darvish entered the game 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in seven career starts against the A's. He was 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA in two career starts at the O.co Coliseum.

One bad inning: Darvish gave up three runs in the third inning, allowing a leadoff homer to Brandon Moss, a double to Eric Sogard and a two-run single to Coco Crisp. He had 48 pitches through two innings. Darvish stranded two baserunners in the third and escaped a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth, striking out A's third baseman Josh Donaldson.

What a relief: Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria combined to blank the A's over the final three innings. Soria got the save and Cotts the victory. With one out in the ninth, A's shortstop Jed Lowrie reached second on shortstop Elvis Andrus' two-base throwing error, but Soria retired Donaldson on a fly ball to center and Yoenis Cespedes on a fly ball to left.

Deep thoughts: Rangers left-fielder Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a home run. It was Choo's 12th career leadoff home run and his first of the season. Choo, acquired as a free agent in December, drilled right-hander Dan Straily's 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall for his second homer of the season.

In support of Darvish: In his first three starts, Darvish allowed just two runs over 22.0 innings but went 1-0 with two no-decisions and never threw a pitch with a Rangers run on the scoreboard. His only two runs of support came in the top half of an inning before he left the game for a reliever. Choo ended that streak with his leadoff homer, and the Rangers added a run in the fourth and one in the fifth. That marked a season-high three runs of support for Darvish.

More signs of life: First baseman Prince Fielder went 2-for-4 with a double, drove in a run and scored a run as he continued fighting his way out of a slump. In the fifth inning with two out and runners at first and third, Fielder lined an RBI single to right, snapping an 0-for-9 skid with runners in scoring position.

No answer for Moss: Moss sent Darvish's first pitch in the second inning -- a belt-high fastball -- high and deep over the right-field wall for a home run. Moss homering off Darvish came as no surprise. He entered the game 5-for-15 with three home runs and five RBIs against Darvish. Now he has four career home runs off Darvish, tying the Angels' Mike Trout for the most by any opposing hitter.

After further review: In the top of the seventh, Choo beat out a ground ball for a single off left-hander Fernando Abad, but the call was overturned after a video review. To make matters worse, Choo hurt his left ankle when he landed hard on the bag. During the review, he went to the dugout and had his ankle taped, but he was replaced in the bottom of the seventh by former A's outfielder Michael Choice, who singled and stole second in the ninth.

Andrus' tough luck: Andrus singled and scored in the fifth inning and has now hit safely in 18 of 20 games to start the season. He also lined out to left field in the third and was robbed of extra bases in the seventh when A's center fielder Crisp made a leaping catch of Andrus' drive to left center. If the ball had eluded Crisp, Andrus might have had an inside-the-park home run.

Up next: Rangers rookie right-hander Nick Martinez (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will make his second career start Tuesday night in Game 2 of the three-game series. He'll face A's left-hander Tommy Milone (0-1, 4.09). First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. on ESPN 103.3 FM and Fox Sports Southwest.

W2W4: Rangers' first trip to Oakland

April, 21, 2014
RangersTom Pennington/Getty ImagesWill Kevin Kouzmanoff and Prince Fielder's bats stay hot as the Rangers head to Oakland?
The Texas Rangers and Oakland A's face each other for the first three games of 19 between the two this season. The A's are the two-time defending AL West champions and once again find themselves at the top of the division. The Rangers, thanks to a solid homestand, are right with the A's, making this series particularly interesting this early in the season. A few things to watch:

* Bullpens. Oakland has had one of the best bullpens in the big leagues for years, but it's gone through some flux this year. Still, the A's relief ERA is second to the Red Sox in the AL. Jim Johnson lost his closer job after a rough start, but the A's have cobbled together enough arms to get the job done. The Rangers' bullpen had a slow start, but has come on of late as players have figured out their roles. Alexi Ogando has improved and has provided some late-inning relief to get the game to closer Joakim Soria. If these games are close -- and they should be -- watch those bullpens.

* Yu Darvish. The Rangers' ace goes Monday to lead off the series in a place where he hasn't had much success. In two starts in Oakland (one in each of the last two years), Darvish is 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA. Walks have been the biggest reason as he's had 12 in those two starts (10 1/3 innings) and three homers allowed. He has just eight strikeouts in those outings.

* Run support. Darvish has allowed just two runs in 22 innings this season and has just two runs of support. Can the offense give him a little more to work with in Oakland? Two of the hitters that bother Darvish the most are Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Moss, who are both hitting over .300 in their careers off Darvish.

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Extra Bases: Darvish's Oakland nightmare

April, 21, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish will have to deal not only with the American League West-leading Oakland A's in Monday’s 9:05 p.m. opener of a six-game road trip. He’ll also be pitching in his most uncomfortable statistical setting.

In two career starts at Overstock.com Coliseum, Darvish is 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA. In 10.1 innings, he has walked 12 and allowed 11 hits, including three home runs.

"Oakland has put some big innings on him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And it has usually started with a walk. I remember once it started when he hit a guy.

"It comes down to execution," Washington said. "He’ll figure it out."

Oakland is responsible for a third of Darvish’s 18 career losses. His overall record against the A’s is 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA.

Darvish will take an 0.82 ERA and a 1-0 record to Oakland this time. His win total could easily be higher with any kind of run support. In three starts, he is yet to throw a pitch with any Rangers runs on the scoreboard.

"His job is to keep us in ballgames," Washington said. "He can’t do anything about the other part of it."

Evaluating Rangers 2 weeks shy of opener

March, 17, 2014
Colby LewisAP Photo/Tony GutierrezWill Colby Lewis be in the Rangers' starting rotation on Opening Day in two weeks?

There are two weeks until the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies get the regular season going on Opening Day the afternoon of March 31.

That still leaves some time in spring training to get things ready to go. So where does this team stand at this point? A few thoughts:

Rotation: Colby Lewis has been one of the big stories of camp. But as Rangers manager Ron Washington said the other day, the club won't let its heart get in the way. I've argued that if Lewis was "tied" with others for a spot that he'd get the tiebreaker based on what he's done for this organization and that he's a huge gamer. But he has to get the point where he makes that decision difficult. And his last performance didn't do that. The team also is being very careful, as it should, to be sure he steadily builds up. I just can't see Lewis starting the season in the rotation.

With that in mind, I still think Tommy Hanson and Joe Saunders begin the season as starters. Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers offer some depth, but both can help this team in the bullpen. Matt Harrison still needs more time to be fully ready for 2014.

Neftali Feliz: There were a handful of folks very excited about Feliz coming into spring training. That excitement hasn't turned into a solid spring for the young reliever. Feliz's velocity still isn't where it was before the surgery -- or where reports had it in winter ball -- and no one is ready to hand him the closer's job at this point.

The bullpen would line up better if Feliz was the closer, with Joakim Soria and Scheppers setting up. But Feliz has to be right for that to happen. That's something worth watching in these final two weeks of spring.

Michael Choice: I was surprised by how focused he came into spring training. This wasn't a guy joining a new team and simply hoping to get ready to start the season in the minors. He wanted to show he could help the big club. He's certainly doing that. He has had good at-bats, has impressed coaches with his overall attitude and play and is mature beyond his years. And here's another key: He's a right-handed bat. The Rangers need that on this bench.

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AL West: A's wheeling and dealing

December, 4, 2013
This busy offseason has included the AL West, with the Rangers and A's the most active so far. The teams hooked up on a deal on Tuesday, but it was just one of four separate deals the A's made in 48 hours.

The A's signed right-handed starter Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal on Monday (it should be finalized today, according to reports) and then later that day GM Billy Beane traded for closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles. On Tuesday, he dealt one of the club's top prospects in Michael Choice to obtain Craig Gentry. And he shipped outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres to get right-handed reliever Luke Gregersen.

It was a crazy two-day period that has the A's attempting to plug some holes and improve the team. In giving up Choice for Gentry, the A's decided to give up some of the long-term possibilities with Choice to get Gentry. He fits the profile for what the A's needed -- a defensive outfielder with speed that can play all three positions. Gentry will probably stay as the "fourth" outfielder and the A's know what they're getting in the scrappy Gentry. But that came with a cost, having to give up a player in Choice that has power potential and a higher ceiling at 24 years old. Still, for 2014, the move improves the A's defense.

"Playing against them, they handle themselves well, they play hard," Gentry told Oakland reporters. "That team is the exact type of player I am. I feel like I'm going to fit in well over there, and I'm excited about it."

A bullpen that was already good has only gotten better with Johnson and Gregersen. The latter gives the A's a right-handed setup man with a track record and Johnson is an All-Star closer. If the A's can get the lead late, they'll be tough to deal with as an opponent.

You couple Oakland's moves with the Rangers obtaining Prince Fielder, signing Geovany Soto and grabbing Choice, who is a candidate to play left field (with Engel Beltre) should the club not make any more moves, and you've got the two top teams in the AL West staying aggressive in this offseason. And the winter meetings haven't even started yet.

Texas deals speed, defense for power, upside

December, 3, 2013
If my Twitter account in the past hour is any indication, trading Craig Gentry is not something the Texas Rangers' fan base wanted or expected. I'll be honest: I didn't expect it, either.

Essentially, the Rangers are trading the speed and defense of Gentry, who just turned 30 (admit it, you didn't think he was that old), for the power and upside that a raw Michael Choice possesses. The Oakland A's add a player who, frankly, could annoy the Rangers the next few years like so many A's do. Gentry has hit for a decent average, albeit in a platoon role, and once he gets on base, he makes things happen. He's scrappy and aggressive and a good clubhouse guy. It makes the A's better.


Which team got the better end of the Craig Gentry-Michael Choice trade?


Discuss (Total votes: 9,774)

The Rangers are betting on Choice for the short and long term. They see a player who can be honed and become a valuable -- and affordable -- piece for a while. After all, he was drafted a few years ago and made his big league debut this past September. It's a risk in that he's an unknown quantity, but the fact that he's hit and shown power throughout his minor league run has the Rangers thinking it can translate to the big leagues.

The play of Leonys Martin also makes Gentry expendable. He was not an everyday player in Texas, and the Rangers believe Martin has shown that he can be. Without feeling that way about Martin, perhaps the club is more hesitant to part with Gentry. Engel Beltre also factors into this deal. He is out of options and can now be on the roster as that guy who can go in for defensive purposes or give you some speed on the bases. And Beltre is 24.

This deal does not mean the Rangers will simply head off to Disney World next week and ride some rides rather than talk to teams and agents at the winter meetings. This doesn't have to take them out of the market for a proven outfield bat. But it also buys them some time. They have a hitter they can insert in left field and see how it goes, if they want to. They can also survey the market and not feel rushed about making a deal. If they want to go after a big name, they can. But as general manager Jon Daniels said, they don't have to.

Does Choice answer all of the Rangers' questions in the outfield? No. But they are closer to an answer now than they were 24 hours ago. Texas likes to give young players who it feels are ready for big league duty a chance to do that. Choice will have to earn his spot, but he'll be given every opportunity to do so. This isn't someone the club acquired to be a fourth outfielder in the years to come. If the Rangers get a Shin-Soo Choo, for instance, then Choice might spend this season platooning if he makes the club out of spring training. But he might get a chance to play every day in 2014. In other words: The trade gives Texas some options.

I see where both teams are coming from on this one. The A's get speed, defense and a player motivated to show he deserves more playing time. The Rangers get someone with power potential at the upper levels, something they have in the lower levels of the minors, but not close enough to push for a big league spot.

I'm not forgetting about Josh Lindblom or Chris Bostick. But this deal is more about what the two outfielders do for each club. It should be interesting to watch.

It's another indicator that Daniels doesn't mind dealing within the division. He was asked about that on a conference call Tuesday and said he's a little more hesitant as opposed to a trade that isn't in the AL West, but he won't let that stop him.

"I think you always try to understand what the other team is trying to accomplish, but biggest thing is getting what you feel fits with your club," Daniels said.

The Rangers feel that they did that. I'm sure the A's do, too. We'll see what happens and how it all plays out.



Adrian Beltre
.324 19 77 79
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182