Athletics open series against last-place Rangers

OAKLAND, Calif. — Having battled heavyweights for 10 consecutive games, the Oakland Athletics get a chance to enjoy the rivals knocking out each other when they open a three-game series against the last-place Texas Rangers on Friday night.

Fresh from their first day off in three weeks, the A’s (84-57) will take the field 3 1/2 games behind Houston (87-53) atop the American League West.

The Astros begin a tough series at Boston (97-44) on Friday night.

The A’s likewise find themselves 3 1/2 back of the New York Yankees (87-53) in the race for the top AL wild-card spot. Oakland won two of three from the AL East’s second-place team to slice one game off its deficit in a three-game series that ended Wednesday.

The Yankees open a series at Seattle (78-62) on Friday. The Mariners are the A’s chief competition for the second wild-card spot, 5 1/2 games behind Oakland.

In the Rangers, the A’s will be facing a team they’ve beaten in six of their last seven head-to-heads, including a three-game series also in Oakland last month in which Texas suffered 9-0 and 6-0 defeats before rebounding with a 4-2 win in the finale.

After having started Liam Hendriks and Frankie Montas a total of three times in their last seven games to fill voids created by injuries to Sean Manaea and Brett Anderson, the A’s will try someone relatively new, right-hander Chris Bassitt, against the Rangers on Friday.

Oakland gave the 29-year-old a shot the last time the A’s played a non-contender — Aug. 26 at Minnesota — and Bassitt did his job, limiting the Twins to one run on four hits over 4 2/3 innings, setting the tone for a 6-2 win.

It was his first start since July 11.

Bassitt (2-3, 3.19 ERA) has faced the Rangers twice in his career, once as a starter, and has compiled an 0-1 record with an 11.25 ERA. He has not faced the Rangers since 2015.

The A’s went 5-5 in their rugged 10-game stretch against the Astros, Mariners and Yankees. Their reward over the final 21 games — a cupcake-filled finish that includes six meetings with last-place teams and six with fourth-place squads.

A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano assured that he and his teammates will remain focused even with the opponents having lesser credentials than those the team just got done dueling.

“We just keep the same attitude,” the rookie professed. “Everybody stays hungry and keeps battling. We’re more hungry every day, even when we win.”

In Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-3, 5.97), the A’s will see a veteran pitcher who beat them twice last season.

That, however, merely improved the 32-year-old’s career record against Oakland in 11 meetings, including 10 starts, to 2-5 with a 4.47 ERA.

The Rangers took advantage of a soft stretch in their own schedule, winning three of their last five against the Twins and Angels.

Nomar Mazara was the big bomber for Texas, collecting three home runs and three doubles among eight hits in 19 at-bats (.421) in the five games.

Adrian Beltre also had three homers, and Elvis Andrus added two homers in that stretch during which the Rangers totaled 33 runs.