Rangers look to extend interleague success vs. Braves

ATLANTA — The Texas Rangers conclude interleague play with three games in Atlanta, knowing that success against the National League has kept them in the race for an American League wild-card spot.

Texas is 12-5 in interleague action entering the series opener against the Braves on Monday night at first-year SunTrust Park.

The Rangers have played just two previous series in Atlanta, going 4-2 at Turner Field. Texas has won seven of 12 games played at home vs. the Braves to leave the all-time series at 9-9.

Texas (68-68) traded starting pitcher Yu Darvish and catcher Jonathan Lucroy prior to the July non-waiver deadline and lost third baseman Adrian Beltre for a month because of a hamstring injury last week but remains alive in the race for a playoff berth.

The Rangers are three games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild-card spot after taking a weekend series at home against the Los Angeles Angels with a 7-6 victory Sunday.

Atlanta (60-75) was at 45-45 on July 16 but has been in a freefall since. After dropping seven straight to the Chicago Cubs during their downturn, the Braves did manage a 5-1 victory Sunday at Wrigley Field to end a 3-4 road trip.

The Braves are 8-9 against the American League, going 1-2 against Seattle in the homestand prior to visiting Philadelphia and Chicago.

The Rangers open the series against Atlanta with their most consistent right-handed starter the past two months on the mound.

Andrew Cashner (8-9, 3.30 ERA) has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his past six starts. He was a combined 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in July and August, with seven quality starts in nine outings.

“I have a lot of confidence in what I’m doing,” said Cashner, who is 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA in five career appearances against the Braves. “It’s not who I’m facing but what I’m doing on the mound.

Cashner had his most impressive outing of the season on Wednesday in a victory over Houston, holding the Astros to one run on three hits in eight innings while striking out six and walking none.

The Braves will counter with 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who is also coming off an impressive outing and has allowed one run or fewer in eight of his past 13 starts.

Dickey (9-8, 3.91 ERA) recorded seasons highs with eight innings and 121 pitches while limiting Philadelphia to a seventh-inning run in a 9-1 victory on Wednesday. He struck out nine, walked one and gave up seven hits.

“It’s so fun to pitch with a lead like that because you can really expand your repertoire a little bit and explore some things you don’t normally get to explore in a closer game,” Dickey said of the Braves’ 8-0 lead after three innings.

Dickey, a first-round draft choice by Texas in 1996, threw 39 fastballs against the Phillies, more than he has thrown in any start since turning to the knuckleball with the Rangers in 2005.

Dickey allowed just run over 14 1/3 innings in two starts for Toronto against Texas last season and is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in nine career games against his original team.

Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez is 8-for-16 against Dickey, while Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte is 6-for-20 against Cashner and is batting .330 at home this season.