(SportsNetwork.com) - Despite some sporadic play to kick off the second half of the season, the Oakland Athletics still own the best record in the major leagues as they tangle with the Texas Rangers in the second of a three-game series at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Just 4-3 following the break, Oakland is still alone in first place in the American League West standings, two games up on the Angels even after bowing to Texas in the series opener on Friday by a score of 4-1.
Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus each recorded a pair of hits, the latter also scoring a pair of runs for the hosts as they snapped a three- game slide and won for just the second time in the last seven outings.
Texas starter Jerome Williams was credited with his second win of 2014 as he allowed just a single run on five hits, striking out four over the course of six innings. Neftali Feliz allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth, but still claimed the save, his first of the campaign.
"Tonight we were able to do what we needed to do when we created some opportunities for ourselves," Rangers manager Ron Washington noted. "We just have to continue to do that. Take advantage of what we create."
Oakland starter Jason Hammel remained winless for his new team as he surrendered three earned runs on seven hits and a couple of walks. Hammel, who was traded to the A's earlier this month in a six-player deal from the Chicago Cubs, managed to fan three in his 5 2/3 innings of work.
"The easy thing to do here is to start getting down on myself, but I'm not going to do that," said Hammel, 0-3 with the A's. "Lot of good things tonight, save for a few hard-hit balls, just balls that fell in, a couple walks pushed guys to scoring position."
Stephen Vogt accounted for two hits for the visitors, while Eric Sogard scored the lone run in the sixth inning.
On Saturday, the Athletics again turn to a young hurler in Sonny Gray, now in just his second major league campaign. The right-hander, who put up a mark of 5-3 a year ago for Oakland, already has six more victories this time around and is working on a five-game win streak.
Gray, who has not lost since June 13 versus the New York Yankees, has permitted just three earned runs in his last four outings, thanks in part to a 10-2 win over Baltimore on Sunday at home.
Against the Orioles, Gray lasted 6 2/3 innings as he surrendered a mere two hits and as many walks, while striking out eight.
Gray's current win streak began with a meeting versus Texas back on June 18 when he allowed two runs on six hits through seven innings.
Right-hander Miles Mikolas had originally been penciled in as the starter for the Rangers tonight, but the team has now opted for Nick Tepesch instead.
The Missouri product in just his second year in the majors, last pitched on Tuesday at the New York Yankees where he allowed three hits and a run in just 1/3 inning of work. The setback was his third in a row.
The right-handed Tepesch, who has a career mark of 0-1 versus the A's in four all-time appearances, has struggled all season with his control, walking 23 batters while striking out just 35 over the course of 61.0 innings.
Entering play this weekend, these two teams are polar opposites of each other in terms of offense, with the A's leading all of baseball with a plus-160 in run differential and Texas at the other end of that list with minus-109 while being the only team in the majors showing a winning percentage under .400 (.398).