(Sports Network) - Though the Texas Rangers are on the verge of their first playoff berth in 11 seasons, they would like to pick up some momentum over the season's final games. They also don't want to give the Oakland Athletics any shot of pulling off an incredible rally.
Texas will try to get its offense going and move another step closer to the American League West crown this evening in the second contest of a four-game set against second-place Oakland at the Coliseum.
The Rangers came into this series with a magic number of four to claim its first division title since 1999 -- also the last time Texas reached the postseason -- and an eight-game lead over the Athletics. They could have cut their magic number in half in last night's opener, but instead managed just one hit in a 5-0 loss that pulled Oakland a game closer to Texas with 10 remaining.
Dallas Braden snapped a four-start slide by holding Texas to just a Nelson Cruz single in the first inning. He retired his next 19 batters faced before allowing a pair of walks in his eighth and final inning. Brad Ziegler fanned two batters in the ninth to finish the combined one-hitter, the A's fifth victory in seven games.
"We're having fun," Braden told Oakland's website. "We know what position we're in. We know what we're dealing with, but that's not going to deter us from coming in and getting our work in and getting to where we want to be. There's no obese lady in sight, and she ain't singing. I can't hear nothing."
Cliff Lee was touched for four runs over five frames for the Rangers, who have lost five of their last seven while getting held to a pair of runs or less in five of those games. Texas has also been shut out in two of its last three games.
"No, it doesn't seem to be getting better," outfielder David Murphy told Texas' website. "It's an inopportune time for our offense to be slumping as a whole. We just have to fight through it. We can't dwell on it. We need to get back to basics. Basically it comes down to executing: not talking about it, it's about doing it."
Rangers starter Tommy Hunter has been doing his best to overcome his club's offensive struggles, but he is 0-2 over his last three starts despite giving up just two runs in each of his last two outings. That includes a 2-1 setback in Seattle on Sunday, when the right-hander gave up just six hits over six innings.
The 24-year-old is 12-4 with a 3.92 earned run average in 20 starts this year and 3-0 with a 5.26 ERA in four career starts versus Oakland, which he held to just three runs over 7 2/3 innings in a no-decision on Aug. 27.
Bobby Cramer will try to win for the third time in as many starts this evening for the Athletics.
The 30-year-old made his major league debut in Kansas City on Sept. 13, hurling 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. Cramer then limited the Twins to two runs on five hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings Sunday in Minnesota.
The left-hander will be making his home debut tonight.
Oakland leads the 2010 series with Texas by a 9-7 count and has won five of the last six meetings. This is the final series of the 2010 campaign between the two AL West inhabitants.