Extra Bases: Rangers return to Oakland

HOUSTON -- The Rangers return to the place where their season came crashing down last year -- Oakland's O.com Coliseum.

They bring with them baseball's best record at 24-13, but also the memory of the final three games of the regular season in 2012. Needing one win to clinch their third consecutive American League West title, the Rangers were swept by the A's to complete a late-season collapse after leading the division by five games with nine to go.

The Rangers downplayed their return.

"It's just a series in Oakland," third baseman Adrian Beltre said.

Things will be different. Josh Hamilton won't be with the team to discuss the last memory of the series, his dropped fly ball in the final game. And the A's aren't hot like they were at the end of last season. Oakland has a losing record at 19-20 and has lost six of its last seven games.

The Rangers have a six-game lead on second-place Oakland in the AL West standings. The A's have key injuries to center fielder Coco Crisp and ace Brett Anderson.

"I just hope we go up there for the next three days and they don't find themselves," manager Ron Washington said. "They can find themselves after we leave there. The last few years, they've played us tougher than any team."

Washington, who coached in Oakland for 11 years before being hired as Rangers manager, also reiterated before Sunday's game in Houston that he doesn't have any lingering bitterness about last year's final series in Oakland.

The Rangers were in each game, losing 4-3 and 3-1 in the first two games. They had an early lead in the final game before the A's exploded with a big inning, with Hamilton's casual trip to that fly ball in center field tying the score at 5. Oakland won 12-5.

Washington is more upset knowing that the Rangers didn't close out the season, ultimately losing in the first AL wild-card game at home to Baltimore.

"That series itself didn't bother me, because we had a chance to win each game," Washington said. "The thing that bothered me was we didn't take care of business before we got there. It was the games we gave away in a year in which one game made a difference."

Other notes:

1. Leury, Leury: Leury Garcia scored four runs in Sunday's 12-7 victory, prompting Beltre to joke that second baseman Ian Kinsler hadn't scored that many runs in a game this season. Garcia became the first Rangers rookie to score four runs in a game since Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Aug. 22, 2007.

2. Murphy gets going: Left-fielder David Murphy, who will start every game in Oakland with three right-handers slated to pitch for Oakland, rides in with a seven-hitting streak. Murphy is batting .350 with two home runs and four RBIs during the streak.

3. Best record: The Rangers start Monday with baseball's best record at 24-13, a half-game ahead of St. Louis and the injury-depleted New York Yankees, who have put together a 23-13 start without Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.