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BAL@OAK: Gray fans eight, limits two hits over 6 2/3

A year ago Saturday, the Rangers trailed the A's in the American League West by a mere 1 1/2 games.

Even after Texas took the series opener from Oakland on Friday night, the last-place Rangers now trail the first-place A's by 22 1/2 games.

One of many reasons why Oakland has the Majors' best record is Sonny Gray. The right-handed Gray will be making his final start of a dominant month of July.

So far this month, Gray is 4-0 with an ERA of just 0.95. He's earned wins in each of his last five starts.

In Gray's previous start, against Baltimore, he allowed only two hits over 6 2/3 innings. He walked two batters and struck out eight.

"He's been really consistent for us," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "You're always kind of nitpicking with him when he's not."

Gray nitpicked after the start against the Orioles, saying he felt some rust in his first outing since the All-Star break. His manager insists that there won't be room for error Saturday, even against baseball's worst team by winning percentage.

"I think they're dangerous regardless," Melvin said. "I look at their lineup today, and they still have a deep lineup. Obviously they've had some extensive injuries this year, but I've never seen them play poorly. It's a team that's always given us a battle."

The Rangers will turn Saturday to Nick Tepesch, whose start was pushed back from Friday after he pitched in relief during Tuesday's 14-inning marathon in New York against the Yankees. He took the loss in that game after throwing just 12 pitches.

Because of the low pitch count in the rare inning of relief Tuesday, Tepesch might have been able to pitch as scheduled on Friday. But he was given an extra day's rest as a precaution.

"It's mutually kind of beneficial for me," the big righty said. "I think if push came to shove, I could've thrown today, but it's definitely not going to hurt, let's put it that way."

A's: Cespedes back in lineup Friday
After being held out of Thursday's lineup with a right thumb sprain, Oakland slugger Yoenis Cespedes was back in action for the opener in Arlington.

Cespedes played center field as Coco Crisp took a routine day off. He went 1-for-3 Friday with an RBI single.

Both Cespedes and Crisp are expected to be in the lineup Saturday.

Rangers: Washington insists club would be competing had it stayed healthy
Coming after two thrilling races between the A's and Rangers the past two seasons, this year is a stark juxtaposition.

Still, Texas manager Ron Washington believes that, had his team not been hit so severely by the injury bug, it would be duking it out with the A's for AL West supremacy once again.

"I have no doubt about it. My team in Spring Training, if we stayed healthy and the guys that we depend on do what they're supposed to do, we would've been there competing," Washington said. "I still believe that."

Worth noting
• Gray is 8-1 in starts that follow an Oakland loss.

• The Rangers' win Friday night leveled the season series at five games apiece.

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