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On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2014 season.
The Opponent: The A's have to be scratching their heads that they're in a tie for first place with the Rangers, and not sitting with a comfortable lead as we wrap up the first month of the season. Of course, splitting a four-game set in Houston doesn't help matters, and that's what Oakland did over the weekend.
Past 2014 Meetings: The Rangers swept the A's in Oakland last week, winning three close games to take possession of first place in the AL West for a day.
Pitching Matchups: Monday — Yu Darvish (1-0, 1.61 ERA) vs. Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.25); Tuesday — Martin Perez (4-0, 1.42) vs. Scott Kazmir (3-0, 1.62); Wednesday — Robbie Ross Jr. (1-1, 2.45) vs. Jesse Chavez (1-0, 2.32)
What's Hot: Alex Rios is hitting .375 with a double and a triple over the last six games and has had a very good opening month of the season while hitting primarily in the fifth spot in the order. Mitch Moreland has 14 at-bats in the past six games and has made the most of them, hitting .357 with two doubles and two RBIs. There's no hotter pitcher in baseball than Martin Perez, whose scoreless inning streak is now at 26 after two straight complete-game shutouts, including one against the A's in his previous start.
The A's are working a platoon at catcher between Derek Norris and John Jaso, and right now Norris is on fire, hitting .667 over his last 12 at-bats with three doubles. Shortstop Jed Lowrie is hitting .310 over the last seven games with three doubles and four RBIs.
What's Not: The back part of the Rangers' bullpen is in a rut right now, thanks to struggles for both Neal Cotts and Alexi Ogando, who seem to be sharing the eighth-inning role. They each blew a save over the weekend in Seattle, with Ogando's coming on a third consecutive day of work on Sunday. Over the last six games, Elvis Andrus is hitting just .125.
Just like the Rangers, the A's bullpen is having some issues, but the A's pen is in worse shape. Sean Doolittle has given up five runs in his last 1 2/3 innings and Luke Gregerson has a blown save and a 6.00 ERA over the last week. Noted thorn-in-Rangers-side Coco Crisp is hitting just .231 in the last week.
Familiar Faces: The Rangers traded fan favorite Craig Gentry to Oakland for hot prospect Michael Choice back in the winter. Gentry just came off the disabled list, and Choice has been filling the leadoff spot in the order with the absence of Shin-Soo Choo. Kevin Kouzmanoff made one of his many career stops in Oakland, but of course is now on the DL. Josh Wilson is another former A's cast-off, and Alexi Ogando began his career as an outfielder in the A's organization.