The Oakland Athletics will try and salvage a series split Thursday afternoon when they host the Texas Rangers in the finale of a four-game set at O.co Coliseum.
Victories have been hard to come by this season for the Athletics, who have lost eight of their last 10 contests and will wake up Thursday morning last in the American League West, 13 1/2 games behind the front-running Rangers. But they've done well against the division leaders in 2016, holding a 4-2 advantage after blowing a 5-0 lead Wednesday before falling, 7-5.
Daniel Mengden will set the tone, making his second career start. He made his MLB debut June 11, pitching 5 2/3 solid innings in a 2-1 A's loss to Cincinnati. Mengden allowed only two runs on six hits while striking out fiv -- his only mistake coming on a 2-run home run by Jay Bruce that was the difference-maker.
Mengden is only two years' removed from being selected by Houston in the fourth round of the MLB draft but moved up quickly through the organization, posting a 15-5 record and 2.87 ERA in the minors including a 2-0 mark and 0.78 ERA in four starts four Double-A Midland and 3-1 mark with a 1.39 ERA in seven more starts for Triple-A Nashville before getting the call up earlier this month.
"He is a guy who got drafted two years ago, and here he is," A's pitching coach Curt Young told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Guys with that type of attitude and that type of talent, they force your hand. They can come here in a hurry."
He'll match up against Texas right-hander Colby Lewis, who has yet to take a loss this season. At age 36, he's off to a 5-0 start for the first time in his career and leads the American League with 11 quality starts. Over his last eight outings, he's held batters to a .202 average.
His overall body of work aside, Lewis has been exceptional on the road, going 3-0 with an AL best 1.35 ERA away from Globe Life Park. That includes an eight-inning effort his last time out, when he held the Mariners to just one run -- an Adam Lind home run -- on three hits.
"We needed this game after dropping one," Lewis told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram after his last outing. "I felt like first time through the lineup they were taking the first pitch, so I just poured it in there. I caught onto that rhythm and tried to make really good pitches. They put the ball in play and I got quick outs."
Lewis has a history of success against the A's, owning an 11-4 record and a 2.90 ERA in 27 career appearances (25 starts). At the O.co Coliseum, he's 8-3 with a 2.96 ERA.
The Rangers have won 10 of their last 12 contests.