Athletics-Rangers Preview

Through tragedy and triumph, this will be a series Josh Hamilton

will never forget.

Less than 24 hours after lifting the AL West-leading Texas

Rangers to a dramatic walkoff victory, the reigning AL MVP will try

to help the club head into the All-Star break on a season-best

seven-game winning streak Sunday when it hosts the Oakland

Athletics.

Just two days after throwing a ball into the left field stands

to Rangers fan Shannon Stone, who fell over the railing trying to

catch it and eventually died, Hamilton found himself at the center

of a homeplate celebration Saturday when his two-out, two-run shot

off A’s closer Andrew Bailey gave the Rangers (50-41) a 7-6

victory.

It was Hamilton’s fourth hit of the night and second career

walkoff homer.

“It’s been an up-and-down, roller coaster-type weekend, with

everything that happened to Mr. Stone and his family. Obviously

we’re thinking about him and grieving about the situation,”

Hamilton said. “Tonight takes you from one extreme to the other

pretty quick. I feel blessed I had the opportunity to do it.”

Hamilton’s heroics gave the Rangers their fourth straight win

over the Athletics and kept them one game ahead of the surging

Angels for the division lead.

Sunday’s scheduled starter Matt Harrison (6-7, 3.28 ERA) will

try to help Texas head into the break atop the standings and notch

its first seven-game winning streak since Sept. 8-15. The Rangers

won the first six games of this season.

Harrison is 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his last four home starts

after yielding just two runs despite a career-high-tying 11 hits in

Texas’ 4-2 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday.

“I knew it was going to be one of those nights,” Harrison told

the Rangers’ official website. “The big key was getting out of that

first inning (with just one run allowed). That definitely got my

confidence up, and I just battled the whole game.”

The left-hander didn’t put up much of a fight in a 7-2 loss at

Oakland on May 1 when he was tagged for four runs and six hits in a

season-low 1 2-3 innings.

He was 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his three previous starts against

the A’s.

Harrison will face an Athletics team that is trying to avoid

getting swept in a four-game set at Texas for the first time since

June 19-22, 1986.

“It puts that much more importance on winning (Sunday),” said

manager Bob Melvin, whose club has dropped 12 of 17 following a

season-best 6-0 stretch. “You don’t want to get swept four games

going into the (All-Star) break. You don’t want to sit on

that.”

Giving the ball to Trevor Cahill (8-6, 3.17) could help the A’s

(39-52) leave Texas with one victory.

The young right-hander won’t be making his second straight

appearance at the Midsummer Classic, but he’s looked like an

All-Star against Texas in 2011, allowing one run over 14 innings

while winning both his starts.

He struck out seven in seven innings of a 7-2 victory in

Arlington on May 9 to improve to 8-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 11 career

starts against the Rangers.

Hamilton, 5 for 15 against Cahill, is batting .353 with 10

homers and 40 RBIs in 48 career games versus Oakland.