The Texas Rangers are embracing the opportunity to pad their AL West lead before a showdown with their closest competitor. The Oakland Athletics’ sloppy defense is making it easier on them.
The Rangers look to complete a three-game sweep in Oakland on Sunday as they go for their eighth straight victory over the Athletics.
Texas (68-52) increased its division lead to three games over the Los Angeles Angels after defeating Oakland 7-1 on Saturday. Colby Lewis and four relievers combined on a five-hitter while Ian Kinsler had two hits and three RBIs.
The Athletics (53-66) are proving to be the perfect opponent for Texas to face before beginning a four-game series in Anaheim on Monday. The Rangers’ seven-game winning streak over Oakland is their longest in this series since a nine-game run in 1986.
While Texas has scored 46 runs during the winning streak against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, sloppy defense by the Athletics has been a factor. Only one of the runs Oakland allowed Saturday was unearned, but the Rangers still extended several innings thanks to four A’s errors.
“It’s demoralizing and it’s embarrassing. I don’t know what else to say,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s nothing more embarrassing than playing bad defense. You cannot pitch on days, you cannot hit on days but you should bring your glove every day. It’s inexcusable.”
It marked the fourth time this season Oakland had four or more errors in a game, and the sixth time it made multiple errors in a game against the Rangers. The A’s had two errors Friday.
Oakland has also had trouble finding an answer to Kinsler, who is batting .313 with six doubles in 11 games against the Athletics this year, getting at least one hit in each. Dating to last season, he’s riding a 13-game hitting streak versus Oakland. Although the second baseman is hitting .167 in his last 16 games overall, those hits have been particularly timely as he’s driven in 12 runs in his last seven contests.
Kinsler would appear to have a good chance to extend his success against the Athletics on Sunday, as he’s 4 for 6 with two doubles off probable starter Rich Harden (3-2, 4.07 ERA).
Harden, though, is coming off his strongest start of the year. The right-hander allowed one run and five hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory at Toronto on Tuesday, striking out eight.
He struggled against Texas on July 7, allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings of a 6-0 defeat.
Matt Harrison (10-8, 3.06) will close the series for Texas with a chance to give the Rangers their first sweep in Oakland since 2005.
“I’m going to treat it like any other start,” Harrison told the Rangers’ official website. “I want to carry some momentum over from my last start.”
Harrison allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 9-2 win over Seattle on Monday.
The left-hander has split a pair of starts against the Athletics this year. After failing to make it out of the second inning in May, he went 7 2-3 innings July 10, allowing six hits while striking out seven in a 2-0 victory.