Despite coming into Monday's series opener against the A's with a six-game losing streak and an uncharacteristically silent offense, the Rangers weren't dwelling on their recent struggles.
"I don't think it's frustration, it's part of a long season," right fielder Nelson Cruz said before Monday's series opener. "Unfortunately we're in a bad stretch. But we're too good of a team to worry about this stretch. This is a great opportunity to come out and show what we can do."
After two home runs from Cruz helped ignite the offense and snap the skid in an 8-7 win, the Rangers will try to keep things going on Tuesday night. Yu Darvish will take the ball against Oakland's Jarrod Parker as Texas takes aim at a two-game deficit in the American League West.
It's been a wild month in the division race. Entering May 17, the Rangers led the A's by seven games. Now they're in catch-up mode, but Darvish isn't putting too much emphasis on the matchup against last season's division champs.
"It's only June. It's too early in the season to be thinking about those things," Darvish said. "I really don't have anything to say other than we're going to have a meeting again and try to figure out how to win."
Darvish hasn't found himself in the win column for a while, though no fault of his own. He owns a 2.08 ERA over his past five starts, with a .194 opponents' average and 41 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. But he is 0-1 in those starts, the first time in his Rangers career that he has gone more than two starts without a victory.
The right-hander picked up another no-decision on Thursday but authored a stellar performance, holding the Blue Jays to one run on three hits over seven innings, with nine strikeouts. All that despite not having his best command, something he has learned to overcome.
"I think that's one of the biggest differences from last year to this year," Darvish said. "Last year, I could've easily given up five runs with the kind of command that I had [Thursday], but this year I was able to grind through the game, and I was able to pitch through seven innings."
Parker also has been strong of late. The righty had a 7.34 ERA after his first outing of May, but since then has put together seven straight quality starts. He is 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA and a .183 opponents' average during that time. On Thursday, he limited the Yankees to two runs on five hits in eight innings, settling down after Robinson Cano's first-inning two-run homer.
"I just want to continue and develop each time," Parker said. "Less and less each time I've had struggles early at home in the first inning. Basically try to settle into the game and from the first pitch be at it and be aggressive."
Before Monday's game, he wasn't putting much stock in the Rangers' recent struggles.
"I don't think you're going to change your approach too much or try to be something that you're not because a team is playing a certain way," he said. "They could get hot in batting practice today, who knows. They're a team that you don't really try to lower your playing field. You always want to bring your 'A' game."
A's: Cespedes limited to hitting for now
Yoenis Cespedes was in the lineup at designated hitter for a fourth straight game on Monday, the result of left hamstring soreness that came up last Tuesday against the Yankees. Manager Bob Melvin is hoping Cespedes can return to the outfield soon but wants to make sure he can run without limitations first.
Cespedes has been on a bit of a slide of late, going 0-for-4 on Monday and dropping to 5-for-29 in his past eight games.
• The A's have hit .220 and struck out more than once per inning during four previous encounters with Darvish, so they know they're in for a challenge on Tuesday.
"He mixes his pitches," Brandon Moss said. "He's got a few breaking balls to give different looks. He's one of those guys like a Felix [Hernandez] or a [Justin] Verlander. You know going in he's going to get a strikeout. You know he's going to be a tough pitcher, but you try to capitalize on his mistakes and you try to capitalize with runners on base."
Rangers: Berkman expected back
Designated hitter Lance Berkman should return to the lineup on Tuesday after missing the past two games. The veteran switch-hitter has been having trouble with his surgically repaired right knee, which is impacting his swing from the left side.
The Rangers may begin resting Berkman at least one or two days per week in an effort to keep him strong for the stretch run. The 37-year-old has a .266/.372/.393 batting line and five home runs in 250 plate appearances this season, and contrary to his career tendencies, has been more effective from the right side of the plate.
• Second baseman Ian Kinsler went 2-for-4 with two singles and an RBI on Monday, his first hits in three games since coming off the disabled list. Kinsler was making a rare start in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, but manager Ron Washington said he will be back in his customary leadoff position on Tuesday, with Berkman back in the fold.
• With Monday's win, the Rangers avoided their first seven-game losing streak since April 2008.
• Parker gave up three runs on six hits over seven innings against the Rangers on May 22. A day earlier, Darvish held the A's to one run on five hits over six innings.