Rangers face A's with eye on home field
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Texas Rangers took the first step Friday night toward what they hope will be a World Series championship when they clinched the American League West crown.
One day after beating the Oakland A's 3-0, the Rangers will try to zero in on their next goal, securing home-field advantage for the AL playoffs.
Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish will face A's rookie right-hander Raul Alcantara in the second game of the three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
“It's important to start, no matter who you're playing, at home,” Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “Obviously we went through a tough series with Toronto last year and we played the last game at their place. Sometimes when you play at your place it's a little easier for you because you got the fans behind you and you're more familiar with the stadium you play in.”
Texas is 91-63, but Cleveland, which leads the AL Central by seven games, is 90-63. And Boston, which leads the East by 5 1/2 games, is 90-64.
“It's really important,” said Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, who pitched seven shutout innings for the win Friday. “There's a comfort knowing you're (playing) in front of your fans. So that's something we got a lot of work to do because there are some good teams that are going to be trying to do the same this week.”
Darvish, who missed the entire 2015 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, will make his 16th start of the season and second straight against the A's. A week ago in Arlington, Darvish gave up seven runs on seven hits over five innings in an 11-2 loss to Oakland and Alcantara. He struck out eight and walked four.
In his past three starts, Darvish is 0-2 with a 7.47 ERA over 15 2/3 innings. He allowed 13 runs and 17 hits during that span while striking out 21 and walking eight.
Alcantara will make his fourth career major league start and second straight against the Rangers in a rematch with Darvish.
Alcantara allowed two run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings at Globe Life Park a week ago. He struck out three and walked none.
“I thought he pitched really well,” A's manager Bob Melvin said. “Every time out he seems to get more and more comfortable, and more so last time than any. We're (on) a little bit of a pitch count with some of these guys and an innings count. Whether it's him or (Jharel) Cotton, we're not going to overextend them. But I thought pitching in that ballpark against that lineup and having the success he did was big for him.”
What was working well for Alcantara against the Rangers?
“Everything,” Melvin said. “The velocity on the heater was good, his secondary pitches were good. He kind of put everything together that maybe in his first two starts, certainly in his first start, wasn't there. We saw the last game what our development people have been saying about him.”