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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, September 24th (All times Eastern)

Oakland Athletics (86-66) at Texas Rangers (90-62), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Oakland - Dan Straily (2-1, 4.13) Texas - Derek Holland (11-6, 4.42)

(Sports Network) - The Oakland Athletics hope to gain some ground in the American League West race on Monday when they begin an important four-game series with the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Monday's tilt is the first of seven meetings between the teams over the final 10 games.

"We're going to go in there and we're going to be three or four games back. That's the reality of it," A's closer Grant Balfour said. "Whatever it is, we know we've got an opportunity to play them seven times and to win seven games. They're a tough team. We know that. I'm not taking anything away from them. They've been good for a long time and I respect that. But I'm going to go in there with a lot of confidence. We're all going to go in there with a lot of confidence and we're going to play them tough."

The A's, who trail Texas by four games in the division, may catch a break as Rangers superstar Josh Hamilton is still recovering from a sinus problem that had been impacting his vision. He hasn't played since Tuesday.

"I don't know (if he will play Monday)," Rangers manager Ron Washington said on Sunday. "When we get back, we'll see how he is."

The A's salvaged the finale of their three-game series with the New York Yankees on Sunday, as Cliff Pennington's RBI single in the sixth inning proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win.

Pennington also belted a two-run homer for the Athletics, who bounced back from a pair of extra-inning losses in the first two games of the series and won for just the second time in their last seven games. Oakland is still 2 1/2 games in front of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card.

Getting the call for the A's on Monday will be righty Dan Straily, who is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA. Straily suffered his first big league loss last Sunday against Baltimore, as he allowed four runs and five hits with five walks in 4 2/3 innings.

"That's the most guys I've ever walked in a single game in my life," Straily said afterward. "That's frustrating. Just poor fastball command, and I started falling behind hitters and then starting to be too fine. I wasn't even close to the strike zone."

Texas also avoided the brooms on Sunday, as it salvaged the finale of its three-game set with the Seattle Mariners. Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto both homered in the Rangers' 3-2 win that lowered their magic number to clinching their third straight division crown to seven.

Ryan Dempster (7-2) didn't allow a run until Eric Thames launched a leadoff homer in the seventh. Brendan Ryan then crushed a two-out homer, ending Dempster's outing.

"I felt really good, I felt like I had good command of the fastball," said Dempster. "Hats off to the bullpen, what a job they did to come in and preserve the one-run lead, so good win for us."

Texas will hand the ball to lefty Derek Holland in the opener. Holland won his third consecutive decision on Wednesday in Anaheim, as he held the Angels to a pair of runs and six hits in seven innings.

"I feel he's matured as a pitcher," Soto said after that start. "I feel like he's learned how to pitch instead of being a thrower. He's moving his fastball in and out and his off-speed stuff is there when it's called."

Holland beat the A's the last time he faced them and is 4-1 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 games (7 starts) against them.

Texas is 6-6 against the A's this season with four of those wins coming in Arlington.

09/24 10:31:19 ET