The Athletics breezed through a 21-5 run from May 17 to June 13, vaulting back to the top of the American League West standings for the first time since the last day of the regular season in 2012 capping an improbable playoff run. Now the team heads to Seattle to play the Mariners having lost two-consecutive series for the first time in more than a month.
The four-game set in Texas might not be a typical series loss considering the way Thursday's game ended. With Josh Donaldson representing the tying run at first base in the top of the ninth, Seth Smith lined a single to center with Donaldson running. Centerfielder Craig Gentry – who was inserted to the game for defensive purposes – misplayed Smith's single allowing A's third base coach Mike Gallego to send Donaldson home to tie the game.
The Rangers executed a near-perfect relay to cut Donaldson down at the plate, ending the game and giving Texas the 3-1 split of the series. More importantly, Oakland's division lead was cut from three games to one. And suddenly, after losing eight of 10, the dangerous Rangers club seized momentum and has to be feeling good heading into their six-game road trip.
For the A's, they are forced to rebound against a division foe they've struggled with so far in 2013. Oakland is 4-6 so far against the Mariners and 1-2 in Seattle.
Perhaps most disconcerting are the struggles of Yoenis Cespedes, who is hitting .150/.209/.200 over his 11 games and isn't making adjustments at the plate like he did last year. He's been especially susceptible to breaking pitches away. A hamstring issue has limited him to designated hitter during the last seven games, which could be hampering his overall rhythm.
But he's struggled since having two-homer games June 4 and 6, only having two extra-base hits since. At times, success can breed bad habbits and Cespedes might be looking to cure his struggles with a long home run instead of a line drive to the opposite field.
If his hamstring allows, he could benefit from moving back to the outfield in Seattle to regain his usual habits.
Friday night's series opener will feature a rematch of last Sunday's contest with Bartolo Colon (9-2, 2.89 ERA) going against Hisashi Iwakuma (7-2, 2.06). Colon suddenly finds himself in All-Star discussion with his tremendous consistency and command of the strike zone. He's allowed just three earned runs since May 26.
In Sunday's win over the Mariners, the 40-year-old right-hander threw 97 pitches in seven innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits. He allowed just one hit over his final five innings.
Iwakuma came into Sunday's start the hotter pitcher, but couldn't hold up against the A's offense that scored four runs against him in five innings. The A's would put up four more off Blake Beaven on their way to the 10-2 victory to avoid the sweep. Josh Reddick had two hits against Iwakuma and also lined out to left field.
The well-traveled Harang came to Seattle via two trades in a week span. He was originally sent from the Dodgers to the Rockies and was acquired by the Mariners for minor-league pitcher Steven Hensley.
Harang has pitched for five major league teams in his career, spending eight seasons in Cincinnati. He's 108-111 with a 4.24 ERA in his 12-year career. He's made just one start against the A's, allowing three runs in 3.2 innings in a start last season for the Dodgers.
After throwing a two-hit shutout against Houston June 11, the right-hander surrendered four runs on 12 hits in five innings in his most recent outing against the Angels Monday.
Straily had his worst start since late-April in his last appearance in Texas. The Rangers put up six runs and knocked him out before he could get out of the fifth inning. He got the no-decision after Jesse Chavez gave up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz to give Texas the lead.
The young right-hander is hoping regain consistency against the Mariners and continue to solidify the back end of the Athletics' rotation. Even after yielding six runs to the Rangers, he has a 3.38 ERA and the A's are 5-1 in his last six starts.
Sunday's game wraps up the series as Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.30) take the hill opposing another former Athletics Jeremy Bonder (1-1, 3.28). Parker is coming off an impressive outing in against the Rangers which helped lead to the A's to their only win of the series. He allowed two runs on just three hits over seven innings.
Parker has become incredibly tough on hitters over his last seven outings, allowing just a .181/.238/.295 slash line thanks to 30 hits in 49.1 innings.
Bonderman is a former 26th-overall pick of the A's back in 2001 and had not pitched in the big leagues since 2010 after having Tommy John surgery. Prior to getting promoted back to the majors, the righty was 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA for Triple-A Tacoma, allowing 77 hits in 63.2 innings.
But he's thrown well after a bad first start, allowing two earned runs combined over his last 20 innings.