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Rangers visit A's with wild-card berth in sight

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Texas Rangers hope to use a break in the schedule to creep closer in the American League wild-card picture when they open a three-game series against the last-place Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

Thanks to a three-game sweep in Seattle, the Rangers (76-76) will take the field in Oakland 2 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins (79-74) in the race for the AL's second wild-card spot, tied with the Los Angeles Angels (76-76).

Texas has some catching up to do but has a favorable schedule to potentially make it happen. After facing fellow playoff contenders over the past 13 games, the Rangers will see the A's in six of their last nine.

However, the A's have been tough on the Rangers so far this season, especially at home. Oakland swept a three-game series against them at the Coliseum in August, evening the season series at 6-6.

Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez (3-6, 5.47 ERA) and A's righty Kendall Graveman (5-4, 4.39) will open the series, just as they did on a Friday night last month.

Graveman got the better of the previous head-to-head, holding the Rangers to one run despite giving up nine hits in seven innings in a 3-1 win.

Martinez gave up only four hits in his seven innings, but two were Khris Davis solo home runs. He yielded three runs and struck out seven.

The A's (69-83) open a six-game homestand playing arguably their best ball of the season. They went 6-3 on an Eastern swing through Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit, winning the last four.

Powering the surge was first baseman Matt Olson, who homered in five consecutive games before going 0-for-3 on Wednesday in the trip finale against the Tigers. He now has 23 homers in 56 games this season.

Olson's past six hits have been home runs, dating back to a single in the trip opener at Boston on Sept. 12.

"It's been pretty spectacular," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said during the trip. "The expectations are a little unfair, but he's taken off and run with it. He's really turning into a guy that we're going to build around."

The A's hope to say the same about Graveman, who was off to a nice start Saturday before a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay ended his night after two one-hit innings.

His previous start was a good one, as he limited the Houston Astros to one run and five hits in six innings in a 10-2 win.

Graveman is 3-2 with a 4.57 ERA in seven career starts against the Rangers.

Martinez likewise has accumulated a winning record in his career against the A's, going 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 games, including nine starts.

He hasn't beaten anyone in his past nine outings, allowing 28 earned runs in 35 innings. He is 0-3 over the stretch that dates back to June 25.

The Rangers can only hope for the type of performance left-hander Cole Hamels delivered Thursday in a 4-2 win at Seattle.

Hamels limited the Mariners to one run and three hits in eight innings.

"When you do get into September, you kind of do see the light at the end of the tunnel. That's when you kind of make your push," Hamels said after the win. "That's just something I've always had."

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