The Oakland Athletics were able to make an improbable late rally to surpass Texas and win the AL West last year.
This season, it's the Rangers who need to make a run under what might prove to be even more difficult circumstances.Meeting for the final time during the regular season, Jarrod Parker and the A's look to increase their division lead to 6 1/2 games over the Rangers by completing their first series sweep at Arlington in four years Sunday.Bartolo Colon threw eight strong innings and Brandon Moss' two-out RBI double in the first held up for a 1-0 Oakland (87-61) victory Saturday. The A's, who overcame a five-game deficit to Texas over the final nine games of 2012, have won four straight and 15 of 19 to take a 5 1/2-game division lead.The Rangers (81-66), still very much in the hunt for a wild-card berth, have lost five in a row and 11 of 14."I don't think it's much different because last year we wanted to win every game, and right now we feel like we want to win every game still," Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "If anything, it might be a little bit different for them. ... Now they're looking up at us and trying to catch us."Other than the A's last season, only two other teams have overcome deficits of five games or more with 15 or fewer left since 1969. In 2007, Philadelphia erased a 5 1/2-game deficit to the New York Mets with 15 remaining and St. Louis also came back from 5 1/2 down to surpass Houston with 11 left in 2001."From now on, every game is a must-win situation," Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "The division is what we all want. We don't want a wild card. ... We've got to keep fighting."Last swept at home by the A's from Sept. 14-16, 2009, Texas faces a more difficult challenge considering the teams' season series ends Sunday. Oakland won five of six over the Rangers in the final nine games last season.The task would seem more difficult against Parker (11-6, 3.55 ERA), who is 9-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 19 starts since he allowed three runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss at Texas on May 22. Since then, he's posted a 2.84 ERA while going 3-0 against the Rangers.The right-hander gave up a pair of solo homers in six innings of a 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday."I'm not happy that we lost, no matter what," Parker said. "Got to move on."Texas slugger Adrian Beltre is 2 for 12 with a homer this season versus Parker. He had three hits in Friday's 9-8 loss, but went 0 for 4 on Saturday.The Rangers hand the ball to Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60), whose six-start winning streak ended Tuesday when he allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings of a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh."You just have to learn something with your losses," said Perez, the only Texas rookie to win six straight starts. "I learned you have to locate the ball. Fastball location, that's what I'll do for my next start. Nobody's perfect.In the left-hander's outing before last, he allowed a run without a walk in seven innings of a 5-1 victory at Oakland on Sept. 3.Donaldson, who scored Saturday's lone run, is 2 for 5 with a double against Perez and batting .447 (17 for 38) with three homers and 10 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.
Twenty-two percent of Jarrod Parker's pitches this season have been changeups, the fifth-highest rate in the league. He has a 42 percent strikeout rate on that pitch, the second-highest mark in the league and highest mark in the AL. Since Aug. 15, the Rangers have struck out nearly 25 percent of the time on pitches ending in changeups, which is the second-worst mark in the AL (entering Saturday).