It's playoff-like baseball before the postseason begins.
With 17 games remaining for the Rangers, who are 3 1/2 games behind the A's in the American League West, this weekend's series between the two teams could pave the way for an exciting finish.
The Rangers play host to the A's on Friday for the start of a three-game set, the last between these two squads in 2013 unless they meet in the playoffs.
"We need to get sharp and go out to play like it's the last game of the season," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "I think we can do that mentality and be aggressive on the basepaths, and I think we're going to be in great shape."
"It's the last time we play them," said A's skipper Bob Melvin. "I think at this point in time in the season, any time we play them, there's probably a little bit more of a spotlight on the series. And that's probably the case when we go in there tomorrow."
The Texas offense hasn't hit well this month -- averaging 3.4 runs per game compared to the A's 6.8 -- and has lost four straight series. But the Rangers believe they'll bring extra energy against the A's, a team they've beaten nine times in 16 tries this season.
"It's not hard [to be energized]," Andrus said. "We still have a goal in front of us. We're not going to sleep until we get it. I think when we start thinking about [a] negative start, you're just looking for a reason not to do the right thing. Right now we're focused on what we need to be focusing on, which is to go out there and perform well and leave everything we have on the field."
Texas' crafty left-hander Derek Holland will oppose right-hander Dan Straily to open a series that will feature six starting pitchers with an ERA of 4.15 or lower.
Holland hasn't been particularly effective over his last few starts, but his track record against the A's speaks for itself: 15 games, 76 1/3 innings and a 2.83 ERA.
"We're just going to keep grinding it out," Holland said of the Rangers' lackluster performances lately. "Our pitching is going to get going again. Myself, I've had a couple bad starts here and there. I'm not going to worry about this. I'm going to turn the page."
Straily is coming off seven innings of scoreless ball against the Astros.
"Once in a while, there are some lapses where he loses the command of his fastball," A's shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "There's days when he does really well, and there's days he's outside of it and he gets right back into the zone. [Last time out] was one of those days. He had his slider working really well. He was impressive."
Rangers: Kinsler at DH while battling injury
Jurickson Profar's versatility has proved particularly useful of late, as he's played some second base with Ian Kinsler forced into the designated hitter role dealing with an undisclosed injury.
Kinsler wouldn't specify what the injury was, though he grimaced as he slid into home plate on Tuesday. He's just 10-for-46 (.217) this month, though he expects to be in Friday's lineup.
"Everyone has problems during this time of year," Kinsler said. "It's something I have to maintain and make sure that it doesn't get worse than what it is."
A's: Lowrie gives A's consistency, versatility
Jed Lowrie hasn't needed much help hitting doubles this season, although it took an umpire conference on Wednesday night to verify his 43rd two-bagger of the year.
Lowrie's doubles mark ranks second in the American League entering play Friday, and he leads the AL with 20 doubles since the All-Star break. He almost missed out on his latest, however, after first-base umpire Bill Miller called his line drive a foul ball in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 18-3 win at Target Field.
In the midst of a career season after arriving in a trade with Houston in the offseason, the 29-year-old shortstop has already topped his career-best RBI mark with 67. He enters Friday's game hitting .288 and has been a fixture for the A's after not having played more than 97 games in a season before 2013.
• "What I think I'm going through I don't think is being hydrated or drinking a lot of water. I don't think this is something that helps or is that big of a factor. It's just something I'm going to have to grind through," said Yu Darvish through a translator about dealing with leg cramps for the second time in a month.
• A's right-handed reliever Dan Otero is expected to miss the first game of the series due to the birth of his child.
• A's Opening Day starter Brett Anderson is expected to be used out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season, Melvin said.