Previewing Final Showdown Between Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers

Dan Straily

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics hold a 3.5 game lead over the rival Texas  Rangers in the AL West standings as the clubs are set to begin the final series of the year.

Oakland has ripped off eight wins its last 10 games, while the reeling Rangers have dropped eight of 10 contests. Both teams will be feeling the heat in Arlington in more ways than one this weekend, and both will also be sending out some of their top pitchers.

Game One:

For Oakland, the biggest start might just come down to the team’s fifth starter, who has been coming up big as of late. Dan Straily (9-7, 4.17 ERA) gets the call in game one as he will be opposed by Derek Holland (9-8, 3.15 ERA) in what will be a rematch of a contest back on September 2 at the O.co Coliseum.

Straily came out on top that night, and including that win, the 24-year-old righty has won three straight starts. He’s posted a 1.50 ERA during that stretch, and veteran Kurt Suzuki has been behind the plate for all three of those starts.

Holland described that recent outing in Oakland “terrible” to MLB.com, but the lefty absolutely dominated at the Coliseum just a month earlier. On August 4, Holland worked eight shutout innings and punched out 10 batters. Lefty-masher Nate Freiman did manage to go 2-for-3 off Holland, and manager Bob Melvin will be sure once again to work as many righties into the lineup as possible.

However, it should be interesting to see which left-handed hitting right fielder gets the start between Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick.

Game Two:

On Saturday in game two, the Athletics will call on Bartolo Colon (15-6, 2.85 ERA), who will match up with Yu Darvish (12-8, 2.84 ERA). In his most recent outing, Colon worked six innings and allowed one run while striking out seven Houston Astros as he locked down win no. 15.

That’s an ongoing Oakland record for a 40-year-old, and also made Colon the first pitcher in AL history to have won 15 games with four different teams. Before his last outing, though, Colon hadn’t made it past the fifth inning since the final day of July.

Bartolo Colon

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Darvish, who leads all of MLB with 246 strikeouts, hasn’t won since August 12. Back on September 4 in Oakland, when the Athletics tagged him for five runs on five hits and six walks over five innings of work. The performance also included an in-game meltdown and an argument with A.J. Pierzynski, where the less-than-popular catcher might not have been at fault for once.

In part thanks to a home run off the bat of Daric Barton, the Athletics grabbed a share of AL West lead that day and haven’t looked back since.

That game was actually the third time that Oakland has downed Darvish in 2013, with Yoenis Cespedes and Moss also striking home runs off the powerful right-hander along the way.

Game Three:

Jarrod Parker (11-6, 3.55 ERA) will take the mound for the Athletics on Sunday, while the Rangers will call on Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60 ERA). Parker is 9-0 in his last 19 games, but the last time he dropped a decision was against the Rangers on May 22. In that game, Parker allowed three runs, but nothing after a pair of first-inning home runs.

The rookie left-hander Perez beat the Athletics on September 3. Perez went seven innings and allowed just one run while striking out five. One positive for Oakland, though, was that the lineup still knocked Perez around for eight hits. Melvin will once again go with the righties, and it’s quite possible that Derek Norris will get the start as the Athletics could utilize all three of their catchers this weekend.

Keys to the Series:

For Oakland, Straily has the chance to set the tone for the weekend. The rookie will hope to keep his up-and-down season trending in the right direction, and the team’s right-handed lineup will need to be at the top of  its game with Texas tossing out a pair of tough lefties in the series. Finally, the Athletics will need to get  under Darvish’s skin for a fourth time in 2013.

Karl Buscheck is and Oakland Athletics writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @KarlBuscheck and add him to your network on Google.

Related:

Are Oakland Athletics Going to Shut Down Sonny Gray?
Oakland Athletics: Will Josh Reddick Even Make an Impact Down the Stretch? 

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