BY: Richard W. Humphrey

As the sixth week of the season comes to a close, the surprise in the West is that Oakland is the Rangers’ closest pursuer for the division lead. The A’s are in Arlington tonight for a two game series; the first meeting of the season between the two.

Texas is coming off a disappointing two game series with Kansas City, the only Royals’ appearance in Texas this season. KC took both games; the first time this year the Rangers have been swept. The Rangers scored a mere five runs in the series and looked flat. In retrospect, an emotional let down after last weekend’s head to head with Los Angeles, the team the baseball world expected to challenge the Rangers’ two year reign in the division, was predictable.

The Rangers were especially flat Monday night when they managed just a mammoth Nelson Cruz solo home run for offense and lost 3-1. In the finale, starting pitcher Colby Lewis committed two throwing errors that led to five unearned runs crossing the plate in the first two innings. The Rangers were simply not able to dig out of that 5-0 hole and lost 7-4..

Physically, the schedule obviously took its toll. A rain out last Wednesday had ripple effects through the KC series. It necessitated a doubleheader on Thursday, followed by the three hour flight back home that arrived in the wee hours Friday morning. Friday’s game was interrupted by a rain delay of nearly two hours and thus was not completed until after midnight. Thanks to the FOX network, Saturday’s game started shortly after noon, roughly 12 hours after Friday’s game ended. That added up to four games being played in a span of 48 hours.

The rainout precipitated the need for a spot start Monday night from Scott Feldman. Feldman pitched well despite taking the loss. A two out throwing error from Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre let in two unearned runs that doomed Feldman’s good performance.

Even Tuesday, manager Ron Washington was limited in his pitching options without Feldman available as the long man in the bullpen.

So Texas faces the upstart A’s Wednesday night on the heels of a two game losing streak and having lost four of their last six games. Oakland is still very offensively challenged, but continues to get quality pitching despite having traded two starting pitchers last winter to re-load their farm system. Both games are already sell outs, which will be the 12th and 13th of the year for the Rangers. Yu Darvish starts Wednesday night. Matt Harrison gets the Thursday afternoon start.

NOTABLE: Ranger radio voice Eric Nadel has been named as the 15th member of the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame….Outfielder Josh Hamilton opened a Twitter account on Tuesday, and by the end of Tuesday’s game had almost 45,000 followers….Top position player prospect Jurickson Profar has a 25 game hitting streak at AA Frisco.

Follow on Twitter @rangerrap

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