for this game

A's have chance at wild card spot in opener with Rangers

Sep 25, 2014 - 2:55 PM ( - The Oakland Athletics can lock down one of two available American League wild card playoff berths on Thursday night when they visit the Texas Rangers to begin a four-game series at Globe Life Park.

The Athletics share the lead for the first wild card slot with the Kansas City Royals entering the final four days off the season -- three games ahead of their nearest pursuers, the Seattle Mariners. Any combination of Oakland wins and Seattle losses adding to two would be enough for the Athletics.

If Oakland wins in Texas and the Mariners lose in Toronto on Thursday, the race is over and the Athletics are in.

"Well, we know we're going to Dallas," manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll figure out hopefully a destination after that. We're in an exciting time."

Oakland has won just 14 of 42 games since Aug. 9, when it held a four-game lead in the AL's West Division over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who've since roared past the Athletics and clinched the West title.

In fact, Oakland scored just six runs while losing three straight games to the Rangers, who have the American League's worst record, last week at home. The Athletics are 5-1 at Texas, however, though the suddenly surging Rangers have won 11 of their last 12 at home.

"We've got to do every other team fair, and do what's right the last four days of the playoff race," interim manager Tim Bogar said.

Oakland starts midseason acquisition Jason Hammel for the first time since he returned from a paternity leave. The former Chicago Cubs hurler gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Rangers in late July and threw three scoreless innings of relief against them seven days ago.

He's 1-1 in his last four starts with the Athletics, following an early stretch in which he was 1-5 with a 6.75 earned run average in his initial seven outings after the July trade.

"He's really made big-time adjustments as to where he is right now from the first few games we saw him," Melvin said.

Colby Lewis starts for Texas and meets the Athletics for the second time in 2014 after an initial outing saw him raked for 10 hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 14-8 loss in June.

He allowed eight runs on nine hits in his most recent start, an 8-5 loss to the Angels on Saturday.

On Wednesday in Oakland, Howie Kendrick drove in three runs to lead the Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Athletics in the rubber match of a three-game set.

Josh Reddick finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored for Oakland.

Jon Lester (16-11) was tagged for five runs -- three earned -- on eight hits with seven strikeouts over seven frames in the loss.

In Texas, Lisalverto Bonilla became the first Rangers pitcher to win his first three major-league starts in a 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Bonilla (3-0) threw six shutout innings and was part of a starting lineup featuring seven rookies that finished off a three-game sweep of the Astros.

Rookies Ryan Rua and Rougned Odor homered for the Rangers.

Bonilla had seven strikeouts and gave up four hits and two walks.