MLB

Rangers-Athletics Preview

The bad news for Oakland is it has one more game against the Texas Rangers. Even worse for the Athletics is that Cole Hamels will be taking the mound.

The Rangers bumped Hamels' start up to Thursday night's series finale as they look to add to their division lead with a road sweep of last-place Oakland.

The A's (64-88) won nine of the first 13 matchups this season but have dropped four of their last five against Texas (82-69), which holds a three-game lead over second-place Houston in the AL West.

The Rangers used Monday's off day to shift Hamels into this finale, giving him three starts in the regular season's final two weeks - the last two coming Tuesday against Detroit and Oct. 4 against the Los Angeles Angels on the final day of the regular season.

The intriguing part is the option to save Hamels for the postseason opener if the Rangers have clinched prior to their final game. The downside is losing him for the opener of a key series in Houston this weekend.

"This is an opportunity to have him for three starts," manager Jeff Banister said. "All games matter, not just those three against the Astros. It's about taking care of what we need to every day."

Hamels (4-1, 3.73 ERA) has taken care of his business with a 4-0 record and 3.12 ERA in his last seven starts - all wins for Texas. The left-hander has pitched at least seven innings in his last five starts.

Also working for Texas is a surging offense which recorded three home runs and three doubles in Wednesday's 10-3 win. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus each hit three-run homers, while Rougned Odor added a solo shot.

During their 8-2 spurt, the Rangers lead the majors in runs (76), home runs (17), batting average (.310), on base percentage (.392) and slugging percentage (.528).

Surging at the plate are Beltre (21 for 45), Andrus (14 for 42), Shin-Soo Choo (20 for 43), Mike Napoli (11 for 31), Mitch Moreland (6 for 14) and Delino DeShields (5 for 14).

"We're playing well at one of the most crucial times of the year," Banister told MLB's official website. "They have learned how to win games."

Oakland has lost four straight and had an odd game Wednesday, setting a franchise record with 41 triples on Billy Burns' three-bagger in the fifth inning, seeing Eric Sogard's 457-at-bat homerless streak end on his seventh-inning solo shot and watching Josh Reddick commit two errors in a game for the first time in his seven-year career.

"You don't see very often a one-error night let alone a two-error night," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

The Hamels move could have set up a prime pitching matchup in the series finale, but the Athletics announced Tuesday that All-Star Sonny Gray's scheduled start would be moved to the opener of a series against San Francisco on Friday night.

Instead, Chris Bassitt (1-6, 2.82) will make his first start since Aug. 26. Oakland has been careful with Bassitt since he felt right shoulder discomfort following his latest start, putting into question if he would return this year.

The right-hander is back, though, and looks to strengthen his case for the 2016 rotation. His record doesn't show it, but Bassitt has pitched well in 10 starts since June 30. He allowed two or fewer runs in seven of those outings while tossing six innings or more seven times.

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