The A's stemmed the tide of the Rangers' sudden surge in the American League West, taking a game Saturday to extend their division lead. Come Sunday, the two teams' final meeting until September is on tap.
The Rangers had gone 28 days without gaining any ground on the A's before picking up 3 1/2 games in four days, and now the A's enter Sunday's finale with the margin back up to 3 1/2 games in the AL West standings.
With A.J. Griffin making the start for the A's, it'll be Derek Holland on the mound for the Rangers, after what would be their biggest road series victory thus far. The Texas left-hander says it's not too early to elevate the game's importance to stretch-run levels.
"They are all big games from here on out," Holland said. "We're chasing Oakland. Obviously every game counts, but these are big games. It's a chance to gain ground, a turning point, and take off from there."
Holland enters Sunday's game with a sharp 6-1 record and a 2.89 ERA on the road.
"You have to perform, whether it's home or on the road. I just have to go out and match the other pitcher, and do everything to give my team a chance to win and gain ground," Holland said.
Griffin will try to do the same as he makes his first August start following a July in which he went 4-1 with a 4.86 ERA and a .252 opponents' batting average in six starts, allowing eight homers over his last three starts for a Majors-leading 26 on the season.
"It's pretty frustrating, but today was a little different story," Griffin explained after the slugging Blue Jays took him deep three times Monday. "I had a [seven]-run lead. I was trying to get ahead of guys and get us back to the dugout as quick as possible."
Griffin has been sharp in two outings against the Rangers this season, posting a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings of work against them.
While some might consider this one of the early pivotal games as baseball heads toward the stretch run, as Holland does, Rangers manager Ron Washingon has a different perspective.
"I want to take over first place on Sept. 30," Washington said. "But if you start to think about things like that, you miss what's going on in the present. First place will take care of itself by playing good baseball, not thinking about taking first place and trying to win a ballgame today."
Rangers: Andrus keeps on rolling
Shortstop Elvis Andrus extended his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 16 games Saturday, matching his streak from Aug. 28-Sept. 14, 2009. It's also the longest active streak in the Majors, and the longest streak for a Rangers hitter this season.
• Washington said the A's have an advantage over the Rangers because of the weather.
"I was here for 11 years. The weather here is refreshing," Washington said Saturday. "I'd like to see them play in 100-degree heat and 90 percent humidity for two months. All you have to worry about here is blue skies and the sun in your face. It's great. The weather here refreshes you and energizes you."
Athletics: Callaspo starts at second
Alberto Callaspo, acquired from the Angels earlier this week, made his first start for the A's on Saturday, playing the entire game at second base. He said when he was acquired he hadn't played second in longer than he could remember, but A's manager Bob Melvin remembered Callaspo as a fit at second from their days together in Arizona.
"Now there is some uncertainty, obviously, because he hasn't played there in a couple years, but he's always been a sure-handed defender," Melvin said.
Callaspo had a clean game at second with Eric Sogard shifting over to shortstop. Jed Lowrie still batted third, as the designated hitter. Callaspo went 0-for-2 with a run scored, while Sogard delivered a perfect safety squeeze for an insurance run late in the game and added a single, extending a career-high hitting streak to 11 games.
• The Rangers still lead the season series, 7-5, despite Saturday's loss. After Sunday's finale, the two teams will meet twice in the season's finale month, first Sept. 2-4 at Oakland and then Sept. 13-15 at Arlington.
• The A's will have two days off in the next four, traveling Monday to Cincinnati for a two-game set with the Reds that begins Tuesday, then traveling to Toronto on Thursday for a three-game set that starts Friday. The Rangers continue an AL West trip with a three-game set at the Angels before heading to Houston on Thursday to begin a three-game set Friday.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.