Although the Oakland Athletics remain largely irrelevant in the AL West, at this rate they may start believing it’s not out of the question to get there again this season.
They’re fewer than 10 games under .500 for the first time since entering play on May 13 at 13-22 and will be seeking their eighth win in 10 games Wednesday night while trying to secure another series victory in Texas.
After a series-opening 8-6 win Monday, Oakland (32-41) is chasing its third four-game win streak in under four weeks – part of an 18-11 span since it was an MLB-worst 14-30 through May 22. Toronto is the only AL team with a better winning percentage in that time.
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The Athletics have won three in a row against the Rangers (37-34) and haven’t lost a series in Texas in over two years, going 13-4 since with 5.8 runs per game. In their last nine overall, they’re averaging 6.9 runs and batting .304.
Ben Zobrist homered for the third time in seven games and is hitting .419 in the last nine. Josh Phegley went deep for the third time in his last six, but Oakland expects fellow catcher Stephen Vogt (elbow) back in the lineup Wednesday. Leadoff hitter Billy Burns extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 and is batting .343 in his last 24.
That lineup will be up against Wandy Rodriguez, who is unbeaten in six starts. Rodriguez (4-2, 3.20 ERA) is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in that span with his worst outing of the bunch coming last Wednesday despite him earning the win. The left-hander surrendered three runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-3 win at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even with the impressive span, he’s still looking for his first home win since joining Texas to begin the season. He’s 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA at Globe Life Park as opposed to 4-0 with a 2.28 mark on the road.
He’s up against Kendall Graveman, who is finally providing the form the A’s hoped for after a promising spring.
Graveman (3-4, 4.02) has deserved better in consecutive losses, surrendering three runs and 13 hits in 15 innings while receiving one run of support. In his last three, he’s pitched better than he has all year with an 0-2 record and 1.64 ERA while going at least seven innings in each after topping out at six in his first seven outings.
In Thursday’s 3-1 home loss to San Diego, Graveman gave up two solo home runs among five hits in seven innings. He walked one to drop his walks per nine innings to 1.23 in those three starts after posting a 3.97 mark through seven starts that were interrupted by a stint in Triple-A.
"When you get up and experience some failure, you actually have to understand what you are doing wrong," Graveman said. "There’s a growing process no matter how long you play the game. I understood that when I went down there I had to work on a few things."
The right-hander opened the season April 9 by allowing eight runs – seven earned – and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings at home against Texas with Shin-soo Choo and Mitch Moreland both going deep.
Texas is in danger of matching a season-worst four-game losing streak, though it at least got its bats going Monday after totaling six runs in the previous four games.
The Rangers got Adrian Beltre (thumb) back from a 19-game absence, though he’s not yet 100 percent.
"I can’t remember the last time I played without pain," Beltre told MLB’s official website. "It’s just a matter of tolerating it."