The current three-game series between the Athletics and the Rangers will not decide anything in the American League West, at least not yet, with the teams playing two more series over the final two months of the season.
But there is plenty at stake as they battle for control of the division. The Rangers' win in Friday's opener was their fifth straight, while the A's have lost three in a row, seeing their advantage shrink from six games to 2 1/2. After going more than a month without gaining ground in the race, Texas can do so for a fifth consecutive day Saturday afternoon in Oakland.
"There's two months of baseball yet to be played," A's manager Bob Melvin said before Friday night's game, "but I think in any series once you get into August, especially when you're playing your division rival in close proximity to you in the standings, it always takes on a little more importance.
"I think it makes for good fun that we have [the Rangers] here on the weekend right now. They're playing completely opposite the way they were playing a week ago. They get three walk-offs in a row [Monday through Wednesday] and then a good game out of [Yu] Darvish [on Thursday], so they're playing pretty well right now. It should make for an exciting series."
Rangers skipper Ron Washington did not express much concern about his team's deficit.
"All this series is about is us coming in here and playing our style of baseball," he said before Friday's 8-3 win. "We have to play our game; we don't need to be worrying about chasing clubs. We need to play the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Washington will hand the ball to Matt Garza on Saturday for the right-hander's third start with his new team. Garza (7-1, 2.95 ERA) has a 1.88 ERA for the Rangers, giving up three runs over seven innings in his last outing, against the Angels on Monday.
Overall, Garza owns a streak of eight consecutive quality starts, during which he has a 1.40 ERA and .205 opponents' average. That run includes an outing at Oakland on July 3, when he gave up one run over eight innings for the Cubs.
"He's a big-game pitcher," Washington said. "He never tries to hide what he is about. What I've seen is the way he was in Tampa Bay. He has a hammer, a changeup and he moves his fastball around. He makes quality pitches in quality situations."
The A's will counter with Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.07), who endured an uncharacteristic bout of wildness Sunday against the Angels, walking a career-high seven over five rough innings. He had issued a total of six free passes over his previous five outings.
By allowing four runs in the first inning Sunday, Parker raised his ERA in the opening frame to 7.29 this season.
"I wasn't as in-command as I want to be," Parker said. "I don't think things were fixed at that point. I was kind of battling all day, but we made some great plays defensively, and I feel like I kind of let our guys down today, battling and walking guys."
Rangers: Rosales switches sides
The Rangers added infielder Adam Rosales to their roster after claiming him off waivers from the A's. Rosales had played for the A's since 2010, spending significant time at second base, third base and shortstop. He is a career .220 hitter with a .623 OPS, but assistant general manager Thad Levine praised Rosales for his versatility and energy.
"He was a Texas Ranger playing for the Oakland Athletics," Levine said. "He finally found his rightful home."
• Washington tied Bobby Valentine for the most wins by a manager in Rangers history, at 581.
"I'm not thinking about anything like that," Washington said before Friday's game. "I think I'll win two games. I don't know when it will happen, but we will win two games."
Athletics: An odd situation
The A's designated Rosales for assignment when they acquired Alberto Callaspo from the Angels, but they had mixed feelings about seeing him land with a division rival.
"It's weird," Melvin said. "We'd probably rather it be a different uniform, maybe in the National League, somewhere that we don't play. Everybody's pretty fond of Rosie, and the fact that he's in the big leagues again is good for him, definitely."
Rosales' move to the opposing side meant the A's had to change their signs. If the situation were reversed, would Melvin ask the player for signs?
"It depends on if we're playing them in close proximity," he said. "Like, I haven't asked Callaspo anything yet. I want him to get settled and so forth, but at some point in time I'll probably have that conversation."
• Josh Reddick was cleared to return to the lineup Friday and started in right field. He missed the team's previous game with a head injury.
• Parker has been solid in two starts against the Rangers this year, both on the road, holding them to five runs on nine hits over 14 innings.
• The Rangers' win Friday ended a four-game road losing streak. They have still lost seven of their last nine away from home.