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SD@OAK: Ross strikes out six over six strong frames

The A's and Rangers open a four-game series at Texas on Thursday with both clubs playing some of their best baseball of the season.

After taking two of three from the Mariners with a win on Wednesday, Oakland has won 11 of its past 15 games, and the team has taken four of its past five series. Though the A's are 10 games back of the American League West-leading Rangers, they have a chance to cut into that deficit this weekend. Manager Bob Melvin, though, just wants to take it one game at a time.

"We've had some transition," Melvin said. "We have some new guys. So I don't think we go in there saying, 'If we win X amount of games, we'll be that much closer to them.' You start looking at that a little bit later in the season. I think we go in there trying to play well on that particular day and try to win it and expect to win it."

Oakland has fared well against Texas this season, despite the latter proving itself one of the best teams in baseball. The A's are 4-2 against the Rangers and took three of four from them at the Coliseum earlier this month.

But manager Ron Washington's club has been on a tear since that series, winning 14 of its last 18 games and six straight series, tying the Rangers' season high. Texas has achieved its best record through 76 games in team history.

"The one thing they have is depth -- depth in their rotation, depth in their bullpen -- and they certainly have an offense that can pick up the pitching if it's down a little bit," Melvin said. "They're as complete a team as there is in the American League."

That depth is being tested with Tuesday's news that right-hander Colby Lewis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tendinitis, joining two other starters on the DL. That forced the Rangers to move Scott Feldman back into the rotation to start Thursday's game.

Feldman was occupying the long-relief role in the bullpen but has also started eight games. The right-hander earned his first win of the season on June 19, when he allowed two runs over six innings against the Padres. He faced the A's earlier this month and struggled, giving up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings on June 4.

"In a perfect world, which it is not, I'd like to know my role all the time," Feldman said. "But this is fine, I'm happy to get the baseball and do what I love doing. I'm sorry that Colby went down, but hopefully he'll be back quickly. I think I'm getting used to what my role is or whatever you want to call it."

A's: Ross gets the ball
Right-hander Tyson Ross, in Oakland's rotation for the foreseeable future with starters Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy on the DL, will make his 12th start of the season on Thursday. He lost his last outing on Saturday, giving up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Giants.

Ross was sent to the Minors on May 31 to work on several aspects of his game, but has been brought back up out of need. Melvin has said he's seen improvement in the right-hander in his two most recent outings.

• Colon, who's been on the DL since June 17 with a right oblique strain, is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Thursday. Though it was thought the right-hander would have to miss an extended period of time, his rehab has gone better than expected, and Melvin said Colon could make a start before the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, left-hander Brett Anderson threw a 30-pitch bullpen consisting of fastballs and changeups on Wednesday, another step forward in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.

Rangers: Looking to improve within division
Texas entered Thursday a season-high 18 games above .500 after defeating the Tigers on Wednesday night. But if there's one area the Rangers have scuffled this season, it's division play -- they're just 10-12 against AL West foes.

"You don't have to beat the teams in your division but it's definitely important," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It obviously sets the tone with those teams. It's definitely important. It's necessary to win the division. We'd like to play well against those teams."

• Rookie left-hander Martin Perez, Texas' No. 2 prospect, has assumed the long-relief role that Feldman had before he was forced back into the rotation. Perez, who made his Major League debut on Wednesday with two-thirds of an inning in relief, is a candidate to start Saturday's game against the A's.

• Derek Holland made his first rehab start on Wednesday, pitching three innings for Triple-A Round Rock and allowing one run. The left-hander, who's been on the DL since June 7 with left elbow fatigue, will make at least one more rehab appearance on Monday before possibly being activated.

Worth noting
• Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton enters Thursday leading the Major Leagues with 67 RBIs, and is one off the lead with 24 home runs. Hamilton is 5-for-22 against Oakland this season.

• Over the last 13 games, A's starters have allowed just 16 earned runs in 83 1/3 innings, good for a 1.73 ERA.

• Tickets remain available for each of the four games of the series. There are 10,000 reserved seats available for Thursday, 1,500 for Friday, 1,700 for Saturday and 4,500 for Sunday.

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