A's set to battle the American League West leaders

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A’s set to battle the American League West division leaders
It's easy for Athletics manager Bob Geren to say that every game on the schedule is important, but when his team travels to meet the the American League West leaders the Texas Rangers for a late-July series, he admitted there's a bit of extra emphasis.
"It's just another series, but at this stage, every series is a big series," Geren said. "We'll see them again at home soon, so those are six big games right there."
The Rangers, who will play host to the A's on Tuesday, exited Sunday with a seven-game lead in the American League West. The two teams will meet for two three-game sets between Tuesday and the first week of August. Oakland is a half-game back of the second-place Angels, who lost three of four to the Rangers over the weekend.
The A's  have won nine of their last 11 games, including a 6-4 win against the White Sox on Sunday and have momentum heading into this series against the Rangers.
Dallas Braden was greeted with a standing ovation at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday after winning his first start in 11 weeks. "I can quit answering calls from the Oakland Zoo looking for the monkey on my back," said Braden, who moved to 5-7 on the season.
After throwing a perfect game against the Rays on May 9th, Braden had not been able to seal the deal in nine starts—until Sunday that is. With his confidence back up, the A’s pose a serious threat to the Rangers.
Oakland has made the playoffs five times in the past 11 years, with AL West titles in 2000, '02, '03 and '06. They also won the AL Wild Card in 2001. The Rangers, meanwhile, have won the division just three times in club history.
Cliff Lee, fresh off his first win with the Rangers, is 4-2 with a 2.61 career ERA against the A's. But many of the A’s hitters have had success against the former Cy Young Award winner. Rajai Davis, Gabe Gross, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Landon Powell, Adam Rosales and Kurt Suzuki all are hitting .333 or better against the southpaw.  
Texas lost four straight games heading into the All-Star break, but it has opened the second half of the season on fire. The Rangers are 8-3 since the intermission and are showing no sign of slowing down.
On the other side, A's starter Gio Gonzalez, 3-1 in his last four starts, will look to make amends for struggles in his start against the Rangers earlier this year, in which he allowed four runs in four frames on May 12. His 95 strikeouts lead the club.
Rangers: Crucial stretch vs. West
The Rangers started playing a stretch of 16 straight vs. the AL West against the Angels -- a series Texas took 3-1. Thirty-six of the Rangers' final 67 games will be against division rivlas. Texas is 17-8 against division rivals this season and split six games with Oakland in the first half.
Athletics’ key down the stretch
If Oakland is to make a decent push in the second half, it must start with Texas—a team the A’s play 13 times in the second half. Oakland is playing through a 15-game stretch that includes 12 against first-place teams. 
Athletics: Andrew Bailey should be back
After being sidelined for a week because of an upper back strain, the Athletics expect reliever Andrew Bailey to be available on Tuesday. The right-hander pitcher is 1-3 with a 1.56 ERA with 20 saves this year. He's allowed just one run in his last ten outings.



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