(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers can clinch the American League West Division in their upcoming series with the rival Oakland Athletics and will begin the anticipated four-game set tonight at the Coliseum.
Texas had won seven in a row before kicking off a 10-game road trip against AL West foes in which it has won just twice over the first six contests. The Rangers ended a three-game slide and salvaged the finale of a three-game set in Anaheim with Wednesday's 2-1 win in 12 innings, trimming the magic number for their first playoff appearance since 1999 down to four.
Jeff Francoeur scored on a passed ball in the top of the 12th inning and Michael Young lifted a sacrifice fly in the third for Texas, which got six innings of one-run ball out of starter C.J. Wilson. Matt Harrison collected the win with a scoreless 11th inning and Neftali Felix nailed down his 37th save in the bottom of the 12th.
"This was big. You never want to be swept," said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose club is eight games ahead of Oakland in the AL West with 11 to go. "We got a break when the ball got by (LA catcher Jeff) Mathis. Our bullpen did a great job."
The Rangers may not need their bullpen with Cliff Lee scheduled to take the mound tonight. Lee seems to have moved on from his recent back issue with consecutive wins, including last Saturday's 6-1 victory at Seattle. He lasted eight innings against his former club and yielded one run on three hits with eight strikeouts. The lefty, who is 12-8 with both Seattle and Texas this season, tossed eight innings of one-run ball versus the New York Yankees in his previous start.
Lee is 1-0 in two assignments with the A's this season and 5-2 with a 2.14 earned run average in 12 lifetime appearances (11 starts) in this series.
Oakland had a three-game winning streak halted with Wednesday's loss to the Chicago White Sox in the finale of a three-game series, spoiling the chance for a sweep. Chicago posted two runs in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 lead and was able to keep the A's off the board in the bottom half for the win.
Brad Ziegler was saddled with the loss for allowing both runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief, while starter Brett Anderson had a solid outing in the no- decision, allowing only one run through 6 2/3 frames. Chris Carter homered in a losing effort.
"We still had a chance to win in the ninth inning, but we just couldn't get that big hit," said A's outfielder Rajai Davis. "They got that big hit, the double. We couldn't get that today, but we need to put that in our back pocket and look forward to tomorrow."
Davis and the A's may not be looking forward to playing behind starter Dallas Braden, who has dropped four straight trips to the hill. He pitched six innings in last Saturday's 4-2 loss at Minnesota and allowed all four runs on eight hits and four walks. He is now 9-13 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 starts.
Braden, a lefty, beat Texas for his last win on August 28 in Arlington with a four-hit shutout. It was the second of his career and pushed his lifetime record against the Rangers to 2-4 in 11 games (8 starts). Braden is trying to reach double-digit wins for the first time in his career.
Oakland leads the 2010 series with Texas by an 8-7 count and has won four of the previous five meetings. This is the final series of the 2010 campaign between the two AL West inhabitants.