Yu Darvish has not been ace-like in his past handful of outings or against the A's. Texas has gone 6-13 in his last 19 starts, and he's 0-3 with a 5.29 ERA in three tries against Oakland this year.
But while the Rangers are winless in Darvish's last five starts, three of them came by a 1-0 score -- which hasn't happened in 40 years in the American League. Darvish is still 12-8 with a 2.84 ERA on the year, and he expects to put the pressure on the A's on Saturday.
"It's nothing to be surprised about. It only happened 40 years ago, right?" Darvish said. "Every start I always take it the same way. To do the best that I can. That will be the same approach I have, to do my best."
The A's have an inconsistent ace on their hands as well. Bartolo Colon has scuffled in the second half, but seems to have rebounded after a strong outing in his last start against the Astros. The 40-year-old right-hander tossed six innings of one-run ball and recorded his 15th win to become the first pitcher in AL history to notch 15-win seasons with four different teams.
He's given up just one earned run in each of his past three starts.
"That was vintage Bartolo, so to speak," catcher Stephen Vogt said after the game. "He had good velocity and good life on the ball. It was moving."
Both teams are well aware of the stakes associated with this series. The A's increased their lead in the American League West to 4 1/2 games with their win in Friday's series opener, and they hope they can put the division out of reach with two more wins to close out the season set.
The A's will need to win the next two games this weekend to avoid dropping the season series for the sixth time over the last eight seasons.
"Every game now is the most important game of the year," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "When you play Texas, that's a team that's next to you, obviously there's a little bit more to it. But you try not to really look at it that way."
A's: Young starting to reward team's patience
Of the many attributes the A's believed Chris Young brought to the table when they acquired his services from the D-backs last offseason, hitting for a high average wasn't among them.
So when his average kept slipping for the better part of the first half -- and continuing in the same fashion at the start of the second half -- the A's stuck with the veteran, who had averaged 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases in seven seasons in Arizona.
Finally, in the last month of the regular season, they're being rewarded for their patience.
Young is riding a season-high six-game hitting streak. He's 8-for-23 in that span, his average finally above the Mendoza Line -- barely -- at .201 through 97 games, the first time he's been over .200 since May 25 (.207). In June, it dipped as low as .173.
He has 11 home runs and 36 RBIs to go along with eight stolen bases.
Rangers: Kinsler says there's no added pressure this September
Second baseman Ian Kinsler said the Rangers are under no extra pressure this September, even though they are trying to catch the Athletics rather than hold them off. This is the first time in four years the Rangers were not in first place for every day in September.
Last year, Texas didn't get knocked out of first place until Oct. 3.
"We need to win games, whether we're up in the division or behind," Kinsler said. "Every game is important. There is still an urgency to win, but there is no extra pressure this year than last year or the year before."
The Rangers have lost 10 of their last 14.
• Kinsler was back at second base on Friday. He was used at designated hitter on Wednesday because of some soreness.
• Rangers manager Ron Washington said he has noticed the Ballpark in Arlington has played differently this year. Said Washington, "That wind tunnel in right-center, it's non-existent. It has been there a couple of nights, but it hasn't been consistent. Which is good. Everything is legitimate. The park has been playing really fair this year."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.