Struggling A's Tackle First-Place Rangers

Griffin gets the call on Monday.

After a tough roadtrip, the Oakland A's return home to take-on the first-place Texas Rangers, who boast the best record in baseball. Chris Biderman previews the series.

It wasn't a good road trip for the Athletics. After getting off to a nice start in April going 16-12, Oakland is just 3-8 in May after a slew of injuries to a number of key players.

The A's went 3-7 on their 10-game, three-city swing while the team struggled in just about every area. They couldn't muster much with runners in scoring position and they had a hard time getting there. They hit just .208/.273/.334 while averaging just 2.5 runs per contest. The team had a 4.55 ERA for the trip and allowed 15 homers in the 10 games. The team hasn't finished better than .500 in May since 2010 and went 11-16 last May before catching fire in June.

Offensively, Oakland's overall numbers still rank near the top in baseball thanks to the early-season success against the Astros and the Angels. The A's are third in runs scored, but is also third-worst in runs allowed.

The A's starting pitching has continued to struggle, but could be due for a turnaround if Brett Anderson is able to return to the big leagues healthy this week. The same can be said for Jarrod Parker, who could be turning the corner on his neck strain that has hampered his command in the early going. Parker earned his second win in three starts with his solid outing in the A's 4-3 win in Seattle on Saturday.

Anderson threw a rehab start with Double-A Midland Sunday and the numbers indicate it didn't go well. He allowed six earned runs in 3.2 innings on six hits and four walks. The lefty's numbers weren't good last season during his rehabilitation either, so there shouldn't be a cause for concern as long as he remains healthy and has action on his pitches.

The A's return home to the Coliseum for the first time since May 1 and hope their home park can help spark a turnaround. But they host the Texas Rangers, who have baseball's best record and are coming in having won seven of their last 10.

Oakland will be playing the Rangers for the first time this year and hope to win a series to avoid falling any further than six games back of first place. Texas comes in with one of the most productive lineups in baseball and one of the best pitching staffs. Luckily for the A's, they will avoid facing Yu Darvish, who might be the leading Cy Young candidate out of the gate.

The Rangers are third in baseball in opponents OPS (670) and their own OPS (781), and haven't had much drop off after Josh Hamilton joined the Angels in the offseason. That's because they've gotten great production from newcomer Lance Berkman (896 OPS, 136 OPS+), as well as holdovers Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre.

There's a chance injured outfielders Coco Crisp and Chris Young return to the A's on Friday after the Rangers series. With that on the horizon, A's manager Bob Melvin is hoping his team can pull out two wins over the division leaders to give the A's momentum heading into the weekend.

Monday's series opener will have A.J. Griffin (3-3, 3.83 ERA) take on Justin Grimm (2-2, 3.45 ERA). Griffin wasn't able to back up his seven-inning shutout performance in New York against the Indians, allowing a pair of home runs in his loss in Cleveland.

Griffin is a fly ball pitcher, but there is a correlation to his success in 2013 when he's getting more grounders. His ratio was nearly 50-50 in his start against the Yankees, and then he allowed 16 flies to just six on the ground in Cleveland.

Grimm will be making just his 11th major league start and is looking to avoid his third-straight loss. The right-hander has allowed eight runs in his last 11.2 innings against the White Sox and Brewers. Grimm is in the rotation because of injuries to Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison.

Grimm made it to the major leagues quickly after being drafted in 2010 [the same year the A's took Griffin]. He hasn't thrown more than 90 innings in any level in the minors. The right-hander throws a plus fastball, curve and changeup.

Tuesday's game will have lefty Derek Holland (3-2, 2.54 ERA) go against Bartolo Colon (3-2, 4.57 ERA). Holland has been good against the A's in his career, allowing a .230/.308/.376 slash line in 12 appearances. Those numbers edge in the A's favor a little when playing in Oakland, where the lefty has a 96 OPS+ in seven games.

Colon is coming off two-straight losing efforts in New York and Cleveland, and he has allowed a 974 OPS over his last three starts. He hasn't walked anyone, but he's yielded 23 hits in 15.1 innings, including four homers. Colon hasn't had a great deal of luck, either. The A's only scored twice in each of his last two starts.

Wednesday's series finale will feature Dan Straily (1-1, 7.06 ERA) and Alexi Ogando (3-2, 3.09 ERA). Straily allowed six runs in Seattle on Friday for the second time in his last three starts. The major blow was Raul Ibanez' three-run homer in the third after an infield single and walk.

Straily hasn't been very good since being promoted to replace the injured Anderson. He has a 9.00 ERA in those three starts and hasn't had the same explosiveness on his stuff as he did in 2012. With Anderson's return on the horizon, there's a good chance Straily could return to Triple-A if he doesn't pitch well against Texas.

Ogando - the former A's farmhand – has thrown very well since transition to the starting rotation during the offseason. The hard-throwing right-hander has won his last two starts, allowing just three earned runs in 11.2 innings. If there's a chink in the armor, it's his inability to go deep into games. The former reliever has pitched into the seventh inning just once, which could bode well for the A's if they can get into the Rangers' bullpen in the first two games of the series.

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