It was less than a week ago when the Texas Rangers were faced with their largest AL West deficit in four seasons.
On Saturday, they can climb within 1 1/2 games of the Oakland Athletics as the division's top two teams continue their weekend set in the Bay Area.
Mired in a 3-12 skid and a 21-inning scoreless stretch, the Rangers (61-49) were six back of the A's (63-46) heading into Monday's action. Texas hadn't been that far off the division lead since finishing 10 behind the Angels to end 2009.
The Rangers, though, have totaled 20 extra-base hits and are averaging 7.0 runs during a winning streak that hit five with Friday's 8-3 victory.
Oakland, meanwhile, has dropped three in a row after winning seven of nine."The offense just woke up at the right time," said Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz , who increased his team-leading homer and RBI totals to 26 and 75, respectively, with a two-run shot. "We've been quiet for a while. It's a good time to wake up."
Cruz's regular season could be nearing an end if he's handed a 50-game suspension as part of Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation. It's been reported that MLB will announce the suspended players no later than Monday.
Texas last won six straight during a seven-game surge June 15-22, 2012.
Rangers newcomer Matt Garza (1-0, 1.88 ERA) will try to extend his career-best streak of six straight winning decisions.
The first five in that run came while with the Cubs, and he's lasted at least seven innings in his first two outings in Texas. The right-hander gave up three runs Monday before the Rangers rallied late for a 4-3 victory over the Angels.
Garza has a 1.40 ERA in his last eight starts.
"He's a big-game pitcher," Washington told the team's official website. "He never tries to hide what he is about. What I've seen is the way he was in Tampa Bay. He has a hammer, a changeup and he moves his fastball around. He makes quality pitches in quality situations."
Garza will make his second start in Oakland in a month. He threw eight innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory July 3, an outing Cubs manager Dale Sveum said was the best he had seen Garza pitch in two years.
The Athletics, who have plated five runs in a season high-tying three-game home skid, will try to bounce back with Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.07) on the hill. The right-hander's last decision came at Texas on June 18 when he yielded two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 win.
Parker had posted a 2.39 ERA over his previous 13 starts before walking a career-high seven in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Angels.
"I wasn't as in-command as I want to be," he told the Athletics' official website after giving up six runs in five innings. "... I feel like I kind of let our guys down today, battling and walking guys."
Besides cutting down on free passes, Parker needs more efficient opening innings. His ERA in the first is 7.29 after giving up four runs Sunday.
Parker hasn't struggled against Cruz, retiring him in all 14 matchups, including five times this season. He's 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts versus Texas overall.
Elvis Andrus , 3 for 8 lifetime off Parker, is batting .339 during a major league-best 15-game hitting streak.
Texas has won seven of 11 in this season series.
|July 12, 2013||Justin Grimm||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right forearm|
|July 07, 2013||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Left hip inflammation|
|July 07, 2013||Yu Darvish||15-Day DL||Upper back strain|
|July 07, 2013||Yu Darvish||15-Day DL||Upper back strain|
|July 06, 2013||Nick Tepesch||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|June 21, 2013||Craig Gentry||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|July 25, 2013||John Jaso||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 20, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|June 29, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring cramp|
|June 20, 2013||Derek Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - groin injury|
|June 11, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|May 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||15-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Yoenis Cespedes provided the power and Eric Sogard gave Oakland a little bit of punch. It was a winning formula.
Cespedes hit a two-run home run to help the Athletics end the Texas Rangers ' five-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory Saturday.
Sogard drove in an insurance run with a safety squeeze that had Matt Garza steaming for a bit. Jed Lowrie also drove in a run for the A's, who ended a three-game losing streak. Brandon Moss and Coco Crisp each added two hits.
Garza hollered at Sogard after the play in the seventh inning gave the A's a cushion.
"I asked him if there were any good places to eat in Oakland," Garza joked afterward.
Sogard said he couldn't make out what Garza was saying.
"We scored a run though," he said, "so he's not going to be happy."
Garza (1-1 in the AL, 7-2 overall) lost for the first time since June 11 and the Rangers lost ground on the AL West Division leading A's for the first time in nearly a week, falling 3 1-2 games back.
Jarrod Parker (7-6) gave up two runs on six hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out six. He ended a streak of six straight no decisions and is 5-0 over his last 12 starts.
"After the leadoff double I just wanted to minimize the damage," Parker said. "To put a zero was huge."
Ian Kinsler homered and Adrian Beltre also drove in a run for Texas.
Garza gave up four runs on eight hits over eight innings. He walked one and struck out five.
"They had a big first inning and it's always tough when you start in a hole," Garza said. "I thought I made a good pitch but Cespedes is a strong guy and the wind was aiding it because it stayed up there a long time."
Sean Doolittle , Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour each pitched an inning, with Balfour picking up his 29th save in 30 chances.
Four of the first five A's batters hit safely against Garza, with Lowrie driving in one run and Cespedes following with a two-run home run. Moss also singled before Garza got the final two outs.
"Sometimes you want to score before a starting pitcher gets comfortable," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You try to get something off a good pitcher early to create a little havoc, and later to score a run."
Garza, who pitched in Oakland on July 3 with the Chicago Cubs , allowed runs in the first inning for the first time since last July 5 in Atlanta, when he gave up four.
"They showed how they were going to attack me," Garza said. "I didn't really do my job but I got deep into the game and gave the bullpen some rest."
Garza, who earned the Rangers second complete game of the season, retired 12 of the next 13 hitters he faced.
"He was good," Rangers' manager Ron Washington said. "He gave up three runs and gave us a complete game."
Beltre singled home a run in the third and Kinsler hit a one-out home run in the fifth to bring the Rangers within 3-2.
Parker allowed more than five hits in a start for the first time since May 22, when he allowed six hits to the Rangers in Texas, a span of 12 starts.
Moss doubled in the sixth when Texas centerfielder Leonys Martin lost a ball in the sun. It bounced behind him and then over the fence.
Sogard, who became the first A's player with two sacrifice bunts in the same game in over three years, delivered a safety squeeze to easily score Alberto Callapso, in the seventh.
NOTES: A's LHP Tommy Milone was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and will likely start Thursday. RHP Evan Scribner was recalled to take his place on the roster. ... Oakland LHP Brett Anderson will throw a simulated game in Stockton on Tuesday. ... Sogard, who extended his career best hitting streak to 11 games, made his first start at shortstop in nearly a year. ... A's C John Jaso is still experiencing some dizziness from a concussion and will undergo extensive testing. He will not join the A's on their next road trip. ... The A's will send RHP A.J. Griffin (10-7, 3.90) to the mound on Sunday. He's given a major-league leading 26 home runs. ... The A's acquired RHP Fernando Nieve for cash considerations. Nieve last pitched in the majors in 2010 with the New York Mets . ... Rangers Michael Kirkman (form of skin cancer) went five innings in his first rehab start on Friday night. He's been on the DL since June 9. ... Texas RHP Neftali Feliz ( Tommy John surgery) pitched an inning in the Arizona Rookie League on Friday. He will be rehabbed as a reliever. ... Rangers LHP Matt Harrison (back) will continue his rehab with a start Sunday with Double-A Frisco. ... Rangers RHP Colby Lewis (elbow surgery) was scheduled to make his fourth rehab start at Frisco on Saturday. ... LHP Derek Holland (8-6, 3.18) starts Sunday's series finale for the Rangers. He has won four straight decisions against the A's. ... Texas IF Elvis Andrus singled in the seventh to extend his career-high hitting streak to 16 games.