The Oakland Athletics rebounded from a rare poor pitching performance by giving the ball to one of their 11-game winners and finding their power stroke offensively.
Now the A’s are turning to their other 11-win pitcher as they go for the series win in Arlington.
Scott Kazmir looks to extend his outstanding stretch on the mound Sunday night when he tries to lead MLB-best Oakland to its eighth victory in nine road meetings with the baseball-worst Texas Rangers.
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Oakland starters have the AL’s lowest ERA at 3.14, including a MLB-best 2.21 mark since July 3. The A’s, however, suffered a 4-1 loss in Friday’s opener when struggling Jason Hammel allowed four runs over 5 2-3 innings.
Sonny Gray made certain Oakland would avoid its first back-to-back defeats since July 11-12 on Saturday. He gave up one run over 6 2-3 innings to win his fifth straight start and 12th on the season in a 5-1 victory.
It certainly helped when Yoenis Cespedes, John Jaso, Josh Donaldson and Josh Reddick each connected for home runs in a six-batter span over the sixth and seventh innings for the A’s (64-39).
Cespedes has a .345 average and three homers while hitting safely in each of his seven games since the All-Star break.
”Home runs are a big part of our game," said manager Bob Melvin, whose club’s four homers were its most since hitting a season-best five May 26.
Oakland, which has a two-game lead in the AL West, appears to be in good hands as goes after its seventh win in 10 games.
Kazmir (11-3, 2.32 ERA), who owns baseball’s fourth-best ERA, has limited opponents to one earned run or fewer while going at least seven innings in three straight starts. The left-hander is also 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA with 69 strikeouts in his last 10.
The A’s have lost only five times in his 20 starts, though one of those defeats came Tuesday. He allowed two runs – one earned – over seven innings in a 3-2, 12-inning home loss to Houston in his first start following the All-Star break.
"He pitched in the same fashion he has all year for us," Melvin told MLB’s official website.
Kazmir is 7-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 career starts versus Texas, but 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA in his last four in Arlington. He snapped a three-game losing streak to the Rangers on April 29 when he allowed three runs over five innings in a 9-3 road win.
Shin-Soo Choo has gone 5 for 14 with a homer when facing the All-Star, but Alex Rios is batting .217 with 11 strikeouts in his 46 career at-bats and Adrian Beltre is 6 for 29 with 11 strikeouts.
The Rangers (41-63), who have dropped 28 of 34, have totaled just nine runs and hit .233 over their last five games.
Miles Mikolas (1-2, 7.48) hopes to build on the best start of his career after limiting the Yankees to two runs and four hits over 7 1-3 innings in Monday’s 4-2 road win.
"If I just take what I did there and kind of realize that it doesn’t matter so much who’s in the box, but the pitches that I make to get outs," said Mikolas, who went 0-2 with a 10.05 ERA in his previous three outings.
The rookie right-hander has allowed 14 runs and 21 hits over nine total innings while dropping his two home starts.