The tug of war atop the American League West will continue on Wednesday afternoon, when the Athletics and Rangers conclude a three-game series at O.Co Coliseum.
Oakland won the opener to pull into a first-place tie for the first time since Aug. 9, but Texas responded with a 5-1 win on Tuesday night to sit alone on top. The clubs have traded places throughout the season and appear headed for another photo finish.
"Unless you're in first place at the end of the season, right now it's just kind of conversation," A's manager Bob Melvin said before Tuesday's game. "It's nice to be playing well. We've played well over the last 10 days or so, and I think that's the most important thing for me.
"Whenever you're playing the team that you're closest to in the division, it seems to take on a little bit more intensity. But whether you're a game ahead, a game behind, two behind, two ahead -- I think the most important thing is to be ahead on the last day of the season."
Oakland's four-game winning streak was snapped Tuesday, but the club has still won seven of its past nine games.
The rubber game of the series will feature a pair of right-handers in the A's Jarrod Parker and the Rangers' Yu Darvish.
Parker (10-6, 3.59 ERA) comes in with an unbeaten streak that is tied with Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter for the longest in franchise history among starters, although the A's have lost six of those contests. Parker is 8-0 with a 2.57 ERA over that span but took a no-decision his last time out, despite limiting the Rays to three runs on six hits over seven innings.
Darvish (12-6, 2.73) is running away with the Major League lead in both strikeouts (236) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.2). His 11 K's on Friday against the Twins gave him the second-highest single-season total in club history, behind only Nolan Ryan's 301 in 1989. He also set a club record with 64 strikeouts in August, the most prolific month by any big league pitcher since Randy Johnson piled up 70 for the D-backs in August 2002.
Despite all the whiffs, Darvish has gone winless over his past three starts, none of which has seen him allow more than three runs. The latest disappointment came against Minnesota, with Darvish taking a no-hitter into the seventh before giving up a pair of homers and exiting after 6 2/3.
Now he'll take on the A's for the third time this season and the first time in Oakland.
"I take the same approach no matter who I throw against and where I throw," Darvish said. "I'm so glad we are winning and we're in first place, but my job doesn't change. I try to win and help my team as much as possible.
Rangers: Andrus still recovering
Shortstop Elvis Andrus missed his third consecutive game with a tight lower back on Tuesday, and manager Ron Washington doesn't plan to use him at designated hitter to get him back in the lineup sooner.
"We've got guys who can DH. I want Elvis total. I want Elvis on the field," Washington said.
Andrus can swing a bat and run but he feels the tightness when he bends over.
• Center fielder Leonys Martin was out the starting lineup on Tuesday after striking out four times as part of a 1-for-5 game on Monday. Washington said Martin will continue to bat leadoff despite hitting .175 over his past 14 games.
Athletics: Moss takes POTW honors
Brandon Moss was named the American League Player of the Week for the second time in his career after hitting .364 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and six walks last week.
Moss, who struck out as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday, led all Major League hitters in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage (.955) and total bases (21) to help the A's go 6-1. He matched career highs with four hits and two homers on Wednesday against the Tigers, setting a personal best with six RBIs.
• Coco Crisp started for the A's on Tuesday but was relegated to designated hitter a day after he fouled a ball off his right shin and suffered a contusion. Crisp said he was "fine" before the game, while Melvin said the outfielder was "a little bit sore." Chris Young played center field in Crisp's place, while Michael Choice was in the lineup in right. Crisp went 1-for-5 with a double.
• The A's still lead the Rays by 2 1/2 games for the top AL Wild Card spot.
• The Rangers hold a 9-6 lead in the season series, which will conclude with three games at Rangers Ballpark from Sept. 13-15.
• Darvish is 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the A's this season. His only career outing at Oakland came last June 7, when he gave up six runs over 5 1/3 innings.
• Parker is 5-1 with a 2.94 ERA against the Rangers in six career starts. The Rangers are hitting .194 off him. That's the fourth-lowest batting average for them against any pitcher with at least five starts against them in club history.